At a press conference on Tuesday, South African fast bowler, Makhaya Ntini announced his retirement from international cricket. He will make his final appearance against India at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Jan. 9 in what is sure to be an emotional match.
Despite being one of the best fast bowlers in world cricket at his peak, Ntini means so much more to South African cricket than just a top player.
On March 19, 1998, Makhaya Ntini became the first black player to represent South Africa in international test cricket. For a country that had only recently emerged from the dark days of apartheid, it was a historic moment.
However, the early part of his career was dogged by allegations of rape off-the-field. He protested his innocence repeatedly, and with the help and support of the United Cricket Board (UCB), was found not guilty.
Despite the problems in his early career, he went on to become one of the best fast bowlers in South African history. His 390 wickets in 101 test matches puts him second on the all-time list of South Africans, and the 11th highest of all time. He also took 266 wickets in 173 one-day internationals.
He holds the best bowling figures from a South African in test cricket (13/132 against the West Indies in Trinidad in 2005), the best bowling figures from a South African in one-day internationals (6/23 against Australia at Newlands in 2006) and the most 10-wicket hauls in test cricket (a total of four that he currently shares with Dale Steyn). He is also the only South African to have recorded a 10-wicket haul at the home of cricket, Lords.
For a generation of young black cricketers, Makhaya Ntini is a trailblazer—the man that made the idea of a black player representing South Africa a reality. However, he has not forgotten his roots. He has announced that he intends to try and give something back to cricket in South Africa.
The ‘Makhaya Ntini Cricket Academy’ has recently been launched in Mdantsane, a township outside East London. It will have some of the best coaching facilities in the country, as well as intentions of hosting coaching clinics from legends from countries such as the West Indies, India and England. It will also have a fully-integrated programme with local schools to provide education for the young players that come to the academy.
He has also said that he is in discussions with Cricket South Africa (CSA) to become involved in their ‘Tomorrow’ campaign and in their cricket development programmes. Ntini was initially discovered through one of these programmes, and as such, they hold a place close to his heart.
His words at an emotional press conference convey his journey of being the first black South African to represent his country. “It has been wonderful for me to represent my country. I have so many great memories, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.” His place in South African cricketing history will almost certainly never be forgotten—not only as one of their best-ever bowlers, but also as a symbol of hope.
Article originally posted on http://sportdw.blogspot.com/