It is time that we returned to the vexed subject of thatch and related issues. Fantasy Bob recommends that this is a fitting subject for discussion at the more polite dinner party - and a damn sight better than the usual inane chit chat about property prices.
Fantasy Bob has discovered that far from referring to a former prime minister, thatch is the layer of dead turfgrass tissue between the green vegetation and soil and is derived from stems, leaves, stolons, rhizomes and roots. It will absorb energy from the ball as it pitches resulting in erratic bounce. FB discovers that the secret to combating thatch - and the purpose of doughty groundsman Magnus Moon's eternal vigilance - is proper aeration and scarification. These actions both remove the dead material and enhance the root structure of the turf. So now you know.
In discussion recently with Carlton's artist of the greensward, FB discovered that Magnus' precepts for the perfect wicket are remarkably simple. With due modesty and respect for his predecessors, he suggests that at Grange Loan he had the perfect inheritance. The soil structure is just about ideal. But FB is sure that what MM has made of it is important. Magnus says he follows accepted best practice and advice as laid down in authoritative ECB publications. Now this is hardly bedside reading, but it is fascinating in its own, sort of grassy, way, and sets out a comforting rhythmic calendar of care. But it is the intuition of the artist in MM that means that this script is intelligently applied.
FB is sure that few players realise the care and diligence that goes into pitch preparation. There is lots more to it than getting the heavy roller out. Indeed this might be the wrong thing to do entirely. Nobel prize winners are now reporting research that suggests that a lot of rolling is just a waste of time and petrol. Soil conditions are important here, if they are wrong heavy rolling can cause a dusty or even a crumbly surface. A crumbly texture is all very well on a HobNob (to resort to imagery that FB understands) but disaster on a cricket wicket.
In addition to the war on Thatch, Magnus' other great priority is to repair damage to the ends immediately - er, well not immediately because that would be after every over - but as soon as dammit. Repairing ends gets a whole section to itself in the textbook. This is when MM has to get on his hands and knees and it is the nearest he gets to playing with mudpies since his long distant childhood.
Oh, and MM's other cardinal rule - be suspicious of accepted wisdom amongst players. Now this is something Magnus has indeed got down to a fine art.
And speaking of fine art, here is a portrait of the grass artist himself by ..........er Fantasy Bob