Roller is a special roller used for preparing a pitch to give it optimal conditions. The position of a groundsman (an employee who is responsible for preparing a pitch) is considered both difficult and honorable since an incorrectly prepared playing area of the field can not only negatively affect the course of the match as a whole, but also lead to injuries to cricketers.
There are several types of rollers, which depend on the game’s format (test, ODI, T20) and the features of the ground itself. They are not interchangeable; moreover, the operation of an unsuitable roller is categorically not welcomed by the rules since an incorrectly prepared pitch can, at best, significantly complicate the work of fielders who will have to deal with a changed angle of the ball bounce.
In the most general sense, rollers are divided into:
The first type of roller is mechanical; that is, it does not presuppose the pre-installation of any automatic or semi-automatic parts. Hand rollers are more common than others, which is not surprising since they are easy to operate and maintain. The effectiveness of pitch preparation with a hand roller depends entirely on the professionalism and muscular strength of the groundsman.
The second type of roller is classified as advanced. Simply put, it is not enough to control it just by understanding the features of the pitch since the design itself is quite heavy. Nevertheless, it is the controlled roller, consisting of two rollers, one of which is located in front and the second in the back, that is considered a classic. It is used almost more often than others, and the controlled roller is one of the cricket symbols in general.
The third type of roller is rapidly gaining popularity. It is equipped with a gasoline engine, making the design much more maneuverable than the old models. Such a roller can be easily directed forward or backward, changing the speed mode, which allows you to bring the pitch into the proper form in a short time. Moreover, the gasoline roller allows you to act more selectively at different stages of the preparation of the playing area, which makes it more versatile than, for example, a hand tool.
There is a popular saying among professional cricketers, “pitch is the king of the game”. And this is absolutely true because it is the state of the pitch that directly affects the final score, so the deterioration of its conditions is perceived by cricketers as a serious hindrance. This is especially noticeable at the test level, where matches are held over several days, so the standards of pitch preparation before and during the game itself are mandatory not only in international cricket, but also in club competitions and at national tournaments.
It should be borne in mind that controlled and gasoline rollers are quite heavy, so for more efficient operation, the operator must have sufficient experience and understanding of the features of the pitch. For example, the weight of gasoline rollers is regulated by filling special tanks (more often with water, but sand is also allowed) and can reach one and a half tons.
As for the controlled rollers, they can be even heavier (up to two and a half tons), but many groundsmen prefer them because, unlike gasoline, which are also called Walk behind roller, they are controlled directly from the structure itself, since the operator’s seat is located between the front and back rollers.
As a rule, hand rollers are used at the early stages of pitch preparation or in cases when it is a question of a grass/too wet surface. On the one hand, they help to bring the field to an optimal state but also do not allow excessive compaction of the soil or damage to the coating.
The start time of pitch preparation is determined personally by the groundsman, who must not only choose the appropriate type of roller, but also figure out how much effort needs to be spent on bringing the playing area into the proper form. The second is no less important since one of the most common mistakes of groundsmen is the use of heavy rollers to prepare a wet pitch. If the work was started before the site dried out a little, the consequences for the participating teams could be extremely unpleasant: the wet soil sticks to the rollers and deep potholes and dents appear on the pitch.
This is interesting: in the early 2000s, Edgbaston groundsman Steve Rose was awarded the nickname Rawhide for the extremely rigid manner of preparing the pitch, which he literally brought to a stone state.