Few South Africans will admit to admiring Shane Warne so much that he is their favourite cricketer but Bethuel Buthelezi is no ordinary South African. He is the head groundsman at the Wanderers and spent more than three decades as second in command to Chris Scott, the only known curator in cricket to be awarded a Man of the Match award. Scott achieved the feat after three out of five days of a Test between South Africa and New Zealand in 2000 were rained out. That play was possible on the other two days - and full days worth of play to boot - saw Scott and his staff (Buthulezi among them), not century-maker Boeta Dippenaar, take the honours.
That match was also the first time not one but two black African cricketers were picked in a South African XI. Makhaya Ntini and Mfuneko Ngam were both in the side, in a historic moment for South Africa's majority population who were marginalised during the apartheid era. Buthelezi had grown up in those times and knew how difficult life for people of his skin colour was.
As an 18-year-old, he left his home in Msinga in Kwa-Zulu Natal for the bright lights of Johannesburg. It was 1984 and sparks of resistance that were ignited by the student uprisings in Soweto in 1976 were bursting into flame. A year later the government declared its first state of emergency. By then Buthelezi had settled into the job he had travelled in search for.
"When I came to Johannesburg, one of my cousins was working at the hotel at the Wanderers Club and he said to me that if I went with him to work one day, maybe I would find a job," Buthelezi said. "It was a Monday and I went there with three other people and when he didn't find anything, someone suggested we go to see Chris Scott, the groundsman. And he told us he had work for us."
The job was cleaning the tennis courts and the swimming pools. For a black African in the South Africa of the time, this kind of employment was not unusual. The discriminatory policies denied black Africans the opportunity to advance and they were often subjected to working under white bosses for low wages with little chance of promotion.
The surface will be the way for Buthelezi to showcase his skills, and if the evidence of the first-class competition is anything to go by, it's going to be a goodie
Buthelezi's role involved also working on the adjoining cricket field, and in 1992, moving across the road to the Wanderers Stadium, where he helped Scott prepare the strip that for 22 years the Transvaal Mean Machine had made their own.
Buthelezi loved cricket "more than any other game", and he was particularly fond of Clive Rice, a surprising choice given Rice's disapproval of transformation when it came about years later.
Buthelezi became an expert in the art of pitch preparation. With Scott as mentor, he learnt everything there was to know about how to create a surface with spice or a pitch packed with runs. He became a fan of Hansie Cronje, Glenn McGrath and Warne. In May 2012, he was given a special award by the Gauteng Cricket Board for 20 years of service to the Wanderers.
It is only now, though, that Buthelezi is preparing a Test pitch on his own for the first time. He succeeded Scott in October last year, to become the country's second black African head groundsman. Wilson Ngobese, who is in charge at Kingsmead, is the first, and he and Buthelezi have formed a powerful friendship. "We phone each other, we talk a lot," Buthelezi said. "He was happy for me when I got the job and happy for my first Test pitch."
The surface will be the way for Buthelezi to showcase his skills, and if the evidence of the first-class competition is anything to go by, it's going to be a goodie. The two matches played at the Wanderers this season have gone the distance. Fast bowlers took 67 of the 76 wickets that fell (with Hardus Viljoen laying claim to 20 of them), there were two centuries, two innings scores over 300 and two others over 250. There has been something for everyone, which is what Buthelezi has promised for the Test, but there is something else he hopes to guarantee. "This is a result pitch," he said. "It's got bounce, pace, it will take turn, everything. This pitch is for five days and a first-innings score of 350 will be good."
The hot, dry weather in Johannesburg, recently broken up by some storms, has not hampered preparation. "The weather hasn't given me any problems. For a few days, in the afternoon we've had some rain, so even the outfield now looks nice," Buthelezi said.
Nicer will the satisfaction he feels when the two teams step onto his field for the first time, walk towards his pitch, and contest a (hopefully) competitive game of cricket on it. It will be a culmination of three decades of commitment, and for South African cricket more broadly, another step on their road to change.
South African cricket is going through a metamorphosis like never before as it grapples with how to tap into the large previously disadvantaged population, both so that its talent pool is deeper and to right the wrongs of the past. Buthelezi knows what it's like to be on both sides of the divide and has come out of it as an extraordinary South African.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent