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The Indian press corps discovered that Evan Flint played club cricket in England, was Kevin Pietersen’s senior at Maritzburg College.

It’s not often that a grounds man commands quite the attention that Evan Flint has done before, during and even after the Newlands test.

Especially one as disinterested in the spotlight as Flint, but when you are responsible for the surface which produced entertainment as exhilarating as we saw in the first test, it is probably inevitable.

The travelling Indian press corps can’t get enough of him, it seems. They have discovered that he played club cricket in England, was Kevin Pietersen’s senior at Maritzburg College and that he has a devoted fan in Travis, his Staffordshire terrier. Also, that his relationship with Indian cricket goes back over a decade.

Back in 2006 an ambitious experiment to create a venue with fast, bouncy wickets was launched in Mumbai. The idea was to have a stadium at which Indians could practice and become accustomed to the sort of pitches they would encounter in South Africa and Australia.

When the DY Patil Stadium was being built in Navi Mumbai, Flint was invited to oversee the laying of the square; for a good reason.

“He imported 200 tonnes of Centurion soil,” Flint told Mid Day newspaper correspondent Anand Vasu. “The idea was to use it like a training base for India before they went to Australia or South Africa. Maybe they could go there first.”

Shipping 200 tonnes of Centurion soil to India was relatively easy, but then things started to go pear-shaped. “All the Indian curators were saying we’re not touching this, we’re not going anywhere near it,” Flint said, “Then I came along, did my bit and I said I don’t want it either. Because the temperature was so high, you could prepare a proper pitch and it would just crack too early on. It became a bit of a nightmare. Shame, it didn’t quite work.”

After sticking with the project for a few months, the authorities at the DY Patil Stadium had no choice but to dig everything up and use local soil. But Flint had his moment in the Indian sun, all 40 degrees of it. “It was a good idea, though.”

– Neil’s Diary by Neil Manthorp

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