South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 3, 2010

Ntini linked with Middlesex move

Cricinfo staff

Makhaya Ntini, South Africa's iconic fast bowler, is expected to announce his retirement from international cricket later this week, and could be set to join Middlesex as a Kolpak player after being dropped for the crucial third Test against England at Newlands.

Ntini, the first black African to play for South Africa, made his Test debut against Sri Lanka at the same venue back in March 1998, and celebrated his 100th Test cap against England at Centurion two weeks ago. However, his form in the current series has been poor, with only two wickets at 233 in the opening two matches, while his 29 wicketless overs at Durban were a major factor as England piled up a matchwinning total of 574 for 9 declared. Prior to the start of the third Test, Ntini opted not to take part in the team warm-up at his own request.

On the eve of the Newlands Test, South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, had made it clear that a tough decision was on the cards when he refused to give Ntini his unequivocal backing. "It's a sensitive issue in South Africa, and that's being honest," Smith said. "When senior players are at the point where there are a lot of questions being asked about them it's always a terrible, tough time for any leadership group to manage. We've really tried to support Makhaya and give him as much as we can behind the scenes."

Ntini was this week told by the selectors that he would not be playing at Newlands, and has since been linked with Middlesex as a Kolpak player for the 2010 season. Any such move would automatically confirm the end of his 101-Test career, in which he has taken 390 wickets at 28.82, including 18 five-wicket hauls and four ten-wicket matches, the most memorable of which came at Middlesex's home ground of Lord's in 2003.

"If a player of his quality becomes available, obviously we'd be very interested," Shaun Udal, Middlesex's captain, told BBC Test Match Special. "The next call is down to him but, if he does decide to make himself available, everyone at Middlesex would love to have him. We were made aware through various sources that, if the series didn't go particularly well, he had expressed an interest in playing county cricket of some form and, if anything happens - and it's still a big if - he would like to play at Lord's.

"Makhaya has done well at Lord's, he's got three five-wicket hauls there, and it's the home of cricket, so who wouldn't want to play at the home of cricket if the opportunity arises? If he does decide to come, we'd be absolutely delighted. We've spoken to two or three people about him and not heard one single word of anything but praise in terms of his attitude, his mentality and he was brilliant in the dressing room."

Ntini's place in South Africa's starting line-up has been taken by Friedel de Wet, who starred on his debut at Centurion two weeks ago when he claimed four wickets with the new ball in a memorable final session of the match. His recall is entirely on merit, as he comes into the team to complete a pace attack that also includes Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

"It's a sad time for Makhaya, as it is for any player who gets left out," said South Africa's wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher. "But that's unfortunately one of the things you have to deal with as an international sportsman. I know Makhaya, his attitude will be good, and he'll work really hard on his game."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ssaker on January 4, 2010, 17:23 GMT

    32 is not an age where one shud consider retiring, its Ntini's own decison nevertheless, instead of retiring he can use his association wid middlesex to find form like a few Indians have done in teh past , he can take inspiration from former team mate Neil McKenzie who made a successful comeback (or at least decent) , he is fit and can play fr a couple of more years.....The pace has dropped but Morkel and Steyn are ther to bowl quick, Mc Grath , Wasim and walsh all retired in the late 30s.........Dont go Makhaya

  • Ellis on January 4, 2010, 16:22 GMT

    Nobody will know better than Makhaya Nitini himself, whether he can carry on at the top. Nothing is sadder than to see a great player struggle against lesser opposition. He is a proud, dignified man who has been a great credit to his country, and the game. He will make the right decision for himself, his country, and the game. Whatever that decision, I wish him well and will miss his unbounded energy and entusiasm. Well played, Makhaya!

  • insightfulcricketer on January 4, 2010, 13:27 GMT

    I do not know what is this about Indian cricket fan and our obssession with true Fast bowlers . I guess since we have very few of our own and the mercilessness of our wickets and weather to that tribe makes them special. Thats why Donald,Akram,Jason Gillesspie and Ntini are held in high accord as they bowled fast and furious on threadbare Indian wickets. A bowler who refuses to be cowed down by the odds stacked against him is to be cherished. I think that sums up Ntini. I do not think Ntini is going to bowl medium pace to extend his career and for romantic cricket lovers like myself this is an image of Makhaya for posterity.I am sure Langer will also feel belittled if Ntini finished as a medium pacer.

  • lucyferr on January 4, 2010, 13:14 GMT

    Ntini should do what's right for him. He's given enough for his country - now he needs to save up for his retirement. In other words, he should devote himself to freelancing - Kolpak, IPL, etc. Test cricket is a young man's game, where glory is more important than earnings.

  • naren147 on January 4, 2010, 9:34 GMT

    Ntini might be less effective in the enviro friendly pitches of South Africa. Come the test matches in India, the awkward angles he creates will be useful on the subcontinent pitches which offer little to fast bowlers. In reply to Dazzling Devil, Mcgrath has always had great accuracy, additionally Ntini is not a big swinger of the ball and relies heavily on the angles he creates to get batsmen out.

  • DinoGovender on January 4, 2010, 8:27 GMT

    Makhaya's poor form is understandable, considering his many years on the international circuit. It does not mean that his test career should be over. He has already proved that he is a class act and should fight to win back his place. He should use his time on the sidelines to add some variety to his bowling and come back even stronger. At 32, he could still have a lot to offer.

  • lks9996 on January 4, 2010, 8:08 GMT

    I think its better for Nitini to retire from international cricket. bcoz SA got lot of fast bowlers steyn, morkel, parnell, mclaren, langevelt fre de wet also. So Ntini wont get chance in ODI or T20. Now Test chance is also very small. i will say Ntini wont happy juz playing the tests but now test place is also under fear. So better play for Chennai super kings and other counties.....

  • Dazzling_Devil on January 4, 2010, 6:47 GMT

    Agreed that Ntini is going through a real bad form. But he is JUST 32 & can seriously go on for another 3-4 years.Ntini has lost his pace. But McGrath, Pollock, etc were not even as quick as Ntini is, yet they were extremely effective as we all know. Then why cant Ntini be effective? I am sure he will be back. Just because a senior player is dropped doesnt mean he has to retire. I understand its hard for him to comeback, but not impossible.

  • intelinvestor on January 4, 2010, 5:26 GMT

    Ntini should have seen this coming and retired before he was dropped. It isnt easy to drop great players and maybe they should call it a day before it comes to that. Kumble was a classic example of a great player bowing out when he realised there was nothing more left for him to offer.

  • RahulSharma5 on January 4, 2010, 5:21 GMT

    I feel Makhaya Ntini should not retire totally from International Cricket because he is an important bowler for South Africa , as South African Cricket team would need him at any point of time, however getting signed as a Kolpak player will be bad. He needs to think now about the same, he needs to just get some good backing for his bowling and he will be right back with his threatening angle deliveries which used to trouble the batsmen earlier. Ntini should not retire he needs to play some more domestic cricket and get some proper bowling coach who will back him up well.

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