February 14, 2000

National selectors resurrect Ntini's career

Johannesburg - It seems the national selectors are far more forgiving than the Wanderers crowd and are prepared to overlook Makhaya Ntini's indiscretions which has kept him in the public eye.

Rushdi Magiet, who conveniently ducked a media conference, was not in a hurry to answer his mobile telephone on Sunday night after the South Africa limited-overs international squad threw up Ntini's name, although just for the Sharjah series at the end of the India leg of the limited-overs tour.

That it follows the Test series was not mentioned in the selectors despatches when the side was handed out Sunday night after South Africa had beaten England by 38 runs to win the Standard Bank triangular limited-overs series final. There is the impression, which may have been mistaken, that Sharjah, with its heavy religious overtones, would be the ideal way to quietly get Ntini back into the national side. Then again, perhaps he has been told that shooting from the lip and becoming embroiled in verbal altercations, which landed him in the dock and a suspended sentence, is just not done. His "development player" comments about Geoffrey Toyana to the young Gauteng's batsman's face, were far from pleasant, and for someone trying to make his way back in the game, the brash, abrasive approach is not one which the United Cricket Board would like to be associated.

Little wonder the announcement of his name as the 16th member was greeted with jeers by those who stayed on to watch the presentation ceremony after South Africa beat England to carry off the mythical Standard bank Triangular series crown. These days the teams are more interested in pay packets than silverware.

What is interesting is how the selectors, having made up their minds decided to drop Louis Koen from the squad which played in the last three matches of the LOIs in the triangular series. Back is Dale Benkenstein and retained are Kevin McKenzie and Steve Elworthy. The inclusion of McKenzie, thrown in as an opener at the Wanderers on Sunday, and Benkenstein, shows how the selectors are now at least moving into a new era of batting-order adjustments: McKenzie is seen as Cullinan's replacement and Benkenstein for the Jonty Rhodes slot at six. What is interesting is Gary Kirsten being kept on for the limited-overs games after the Tests. It had been predicted he would return along with Allan Donald, Clive Eksteen, Cullinan and Mornantau Hayward. It seems some grape vines were issuing wrong signals as Kirsten and Hayward are staying on while Boeta Dippenaar is coming back.

What is pleasing is that Henry Williams, having proved himself in the triangular series, is going to India on genuine merit. Along with Steve Elworthy, now almost 35, the selection choices and experience counts very much in their short-term favour. Williams has experience of conditions in Sri Lanka.

The selectors were not leaving too much to chance with all-rounder Derek Crookes, a veteran Asian sub-continent player, in the squad of 16.

The South African one day squad for India : Hansie Cronje (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten, Jacques Kallis, Pieter Strydom, Dale Benkenstein, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock (vice-capt), Mark Boucher, Neil McKenzie, Nicky Boje, Steve Elworthy, Derek Crookes, Mornantau Hayward, Henry Williams. Makhaya Ntini is included for Sharjah.