Strive until you achieve

  • March 19, 2017

Makhaya Ntini: Ntini relies on relentlessness, which requires him to strive for levels of fitness not previously countenanced by cricketers, and an unfailingly ebullient character, which lifts him with hope and aggression long after bowlers of lesser body and mind have conceded defeat. These fine qualities made him the heart of the South African attack and the soul of the entire team.

Born on the 6th of July 1977, in Mdingi, a small village in Cape Province which is near King William’s town, Makhaya Ntini was discovered by a Border Cricket Board development officer who was setting up a mini-cricket program in that particular province. Ntini is a former South African cricketer who was the first ethnically black player to play for the South African team. The officer, Raymond Booi noticed the bared-footed cowherd’s enthusiasm and talent for bowling, even though, Makhaya was both too old and too big to participate in that mini-cricket program. Booi lent the 15-year-old Ntini a pair of shoes and arranged for him to participate in a net session in King William’s town.

The time when the spark ignited!

A fast bowler, he tends to bowl from wide of the crease with precision, although not with express pace. He was convicted of rise early on in his career, but was acquitted on appeal and went on to become only the third South African to take 300 Test wickets after Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, and to reach second place in the ICC test match bowling ratings. He also played contract cricket for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League till the 2010 season. Two years after the mini-cricket program, he was selected to tour England with the South Africa Under-19 squad, and played all five of the youth internationals. England dominated both One Day Internationals (ODIs) during the tour, with the South Africans only managing to take one wicket across the two matches, which fell to Pierre Joubert. In the Test series, which England won 2–0; Ntini claimed nine wickets, the second-most by a South African bowler. His bowling was expensive, coming at a rate of 4.53 runs per over: more than any other South African with the exception of Mark Boucher, who is best known as a wicket-keeper. After two matches for Border against the touring Kenyans, Ntini made his first-class debut in November 1995, facing an England XI. He claimed two wickets in England’s only innings as Border were beaten comprehensively. In his debut season, Makhaya Ntini claimed 17 wickets at an average of 37.05 in firstclass competitions.

Mainstream cricket in South Africa was under pressure to prove itself worthy of attention beyond its hitherto largely white niche when Ntini emerged from the backwaters of the Eastern Cape in 1993. The script was straight out of Hollywood. Ntini was discovered by the then United Cricket Board’s (UCB) development program. His next stop was Dale College, a prestigious school where cricket’s roots run deep. Dale was not far from Ntini’s home village of Mdingi, but it was a place beyond youngsters of his humble station. By the southern summer of 1997-98 seasons, Ntini was South Africa’s first black African international cricketer. But his career seemed over, or at best hanging by a thread, when he was convicted of rape in 1999. He protested his innocence vehemently and consistently and, with the support of the UCB, was acquitted on appeal. Makhaya Ntini returned to the South African side for a Sharjah tournament in 2000. He came back to action after almost 20 months in the wilderness, and was a fixture in the national team for the next 10 years. In 2003, he became the first South African to take 10 wickets in a Lord’s Test. Five years later he owned the best Test match figures by a South African: Ntini’s haul of 13 for 132 against the West Indies under Port-of-Spain’s blazing sun and on a not particularly lively Queen’s Park Oval pitch was the perfect précis of his career. Arguably his best performance, however, came on April 12, 2005, when Ntini took 13 wickets for 132 runs against the West Indies at Port of Spain. This remains the most wickets taken by a South African cricketer in a Test match. On March 3, 2006, Ntini also achieved the best bowling figures by a South African in an ODI, demolishing Australia with 6 wickets for 22 runs. A popular figure in South African sport, Ntini was voted their favorite sportsman in a research poll conducted by the South African Press Association.

South Africa’s favorite Sportsperson

In 2005, Ntini was voted as South Africa’s favorite sportsperson. Makhaya Ntini, ruled out of the third Test against Australia at Sydney with a knee injury, has found some consolation in being named South Africa’s most popular sportsperson, the first time the honor had been bestowed upon a cricketer. Ntini, 28, edged out footballer Jabu Pule in a research poll conducted by the South Africa Press Association. The research also showed that cricket, with 11.3 million spectators, was the second-most popular sport in South Africa behind football (14.7 million). The number of black spectators shows a continued upward growth, and they now make up the majority of the country’s cricket watchers. Ntini has been consistently been troubled with torn tendons in his left knee since making his international debut against Sri Lanka at Cape Town in 1998.

Makhaya Ntini seemed to possess few of the standard attributes of the successful fast bowler. He packs neither express pace, nor the drip torture of infallible accuracy, nor a quiver brimming with variation. What he does have, though, is almost 400 Test wickets. His 100th Test, against England at Centurion in December 2009, was celebrated with gusto across the country. But it proved to be his last hurrah. Ntini was ineffective, and he was dropped for the last two Tests of the England series. He insisted he would give his all, as he always did, to get back into the side but the team had moved on. Eleven months later he announced his international retirement, but his place in South African history had long-since been secured.

“This independent research shows that we are well on our way to achieving our aim of making South African cricket a truly national sport,” said Gerald Majola, Cricket South Africa’s chief executive. “Makhaya’s popularity is a result of his hard work, winning ways and warm personality. He is a credit to cricket and to the nation.”

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