CENTURION: The formalities at Newlands hadn’t ended and South Africa were yet to begin with their celebrations after winning the first Test match in Cape Town when Bryan Bloy – the chief groundsman at the SuperSport Park — was handed a message by the home team management. The pitch for the second Test had to be fast and bouncy. “Keep it lively” was the communication.
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Bloy knows a thing or two about preparing a ‘lively wicket’. Under his watch, South Africa have enjoyed a winning spree here at the Centurion like no other venue across this country. The only match they lost in recent years was to Australia back in 2014, when Mitchell Johnson, faster than any fast bowler during that time, ran through the hosts. That aside, Centurion has been a bastion for SA. Bloy has played his part in ensuring that.
In the last seven-odd years, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Steyn have all picked 10-wicket match hauls at this venue. The only bowler to have missed out in this South African pace attack is Morne Morkel. Centurion, for the record, is Morne’s home ground.
It is here that Team India arrived at 9.30 am local time on Thursday for a prolonged net practice. Raghu, the throw-down specialist employed with the Indian team, had a task up his sleeve. The wiry Raghu’s speciality, among other thing, happens to be that he can throw (chuck) down deliveries with the help of a gear that constantly whips up pace in the range of 145 kmph. In fact, on a good day, it can touch 150.
He went about his job starting with KL Rahul, who is all set to play this do-or-die Test. Raghu — the boy from Karnataka who has carved his own niche for the craft he has developed — turned out to be the Rabada, Morkel, Philander, Steyn or even Mitchell Johnson all rolled into one for this Indian team.
As the talk of pace catches up all the attention around Centurion here, Bloy, the ‘man with the ploy’ — as they like to call him around
BCCI here – also has another equally important task cut out for him. As much as he needs to ensure that Team South Africa’s ‘message’ needs to be catered to, there’s also the important business of a five-day Test match that has to be looked into. “It can’t be all work and no play,” he says, smiling. “There’s going to be a level play for the batsmen and the bowlers.”
For one, SA now have a good idea of what this Indian attack is capable of. The day in fact was rife with talks of Faf du Plessis’ dismissal in the second innings at Cape Town, off Bumrah, one that has caught everybody’s attention here. Faf would know the side-effects of dishing out a Green Mamba at here.