It is one of cricket's iconic photographs. Bosser Martin, groundsman at The Oval before the second world war, besuited and wearing a snappy hat, with his left hand resting proudly, almost affectionately, on Bosser's Pet, his heavy roller. Although he looks as if he could have done a decent job by simply walking up and down the pitches himself, Bosser and his boys would trudge the roller back and forth until the surface resembled concrete.
The fruits of this particular labour are shown on the scoreboard behind him: this was August 1938 and so unforgivingly true had his pitch been that Len Hutton made 364 of England's 903 for seven, before beating Australia by an innings and 579 runs.
Groundsmen love the heavy roller. Once, horse or man-power did the job of hauling a couple of tons of metal for hours on end. In more modern times it has been motorised and they can sit on it, in reverie, chugging rather than trudging.
In 2000 the Edgbaston groundsman, Steve Rouse, rolled his Test pitch so enthusiastically that he became known as Rawhide, because he was always rollin', rollin, rollin': so much so that grass could only grow through the cracks, which it did in clumps. Curtly Ambrose's first ball of the match rose from a length, went straight over Mike Atherton's head and that of the keeper, and clattered into the boundary.
What the players feel about it is another matter. There was a time when the familiar sound of the roller's motor coughing into life would be heard at the fall of the ninth wicket ...
Read the full article - Article written by The Guardian's Mike Selvey