Johannesburg: When Chris Scott sits down to watch the World Cup final at the Wanderers Sunday, few people will realise what a big part this virtually unknown man has played in the outcome of the game.
For 32 years, except for a three-year break from 1996, Scott has been the groundsman at Wanderers and there is nothing he does not know about the famous venue. “I know just about every blade of grass here,” Scott said.
His face is weather-beaten by hours under the harsh African sun and his numerous pictures of famous tussles between South Africa and arch-rivals Australia, bears testimony of his commitment to prepare a perfect pitch.
“I like to think of these grounds as a stage. The players are the actors, and I am a stage manager. Once play starts, however, I stay in the background,” he said.
At Wanderers there are 10 pitches with different wickets having been used for the five Cup games which have already been played. Made from a special clay and compacted by hours of rolling, the preparation of the middle is an exact science.
One of the most important aspects is to get the moisture content just right. Wanderers has traditionally been a fast pitch, favouring medium and speed bowlers.
For the final, however, Scott is planning a batsman’s pitch.
In the run-up to the tournament, one of the sponsors ran a television advertisement featuring “Chris Scott” and how his dream of having the six-week tournament being played in South Africa came true.
The World Cup has been the highlight. “For 32 years I have waited for a World Cup final to be played here. The final is the be-all and end-all of cricket. The pressure on a groundsman is immense to do it right,” he said.
“For me it’s a dream and a nightmare come true.”