'System not producing enough black cricketers' - Ntini
Makhaya Ntini, the South Africa fast bowler, believes the existing structure to identify black cricketers in the country's rural areas is not yielding the desired results. Ntini, among his country's most renowned sporting personalities and himself a product of that structure, is raising funds to build an academy in the Eastern Cape and hopes it will help in the development of more black cricketers.
"We do have a structure in South Africa where they are looking for black cricketers outside the usual areas, the cities. They go to the rural areas to try and find promising youngsters," Ntini told Independent on Sunday. "But when you are talking about whether it's developing, or it's still going down a bit, it's a very rare person who will answer in the first way. I would say cricket from the point of view of the black community is not the same as when Khaya Majola or Dr Ali Bacher were around, when it was booming, we had all the schools getting together to play some games.
"Then it was easier to see who was a very good cricketer, who could go to the high schools and develop their cricket. Now it's not so easy. I would like that to change."
Ntini is South Africa's ambassador for the FIFA World Cup which begins in the country in less than a week. For a cricketer to represent his country in that capacity at a global event, Ntini said, was very special. "As a cricketer for me to be there, and part and parcel of what's going on in our country, it's a huge thing, something I'm proud of as a country, as a person and as an individual."
Ntini acknowledged cricket in South Africa was still a sport dominated by whites, and for black cricketers to compete and succeed, they had to work that much harder. "Cricket in South Africa is not exclusively white, but it is more white-dominant. The football is more black-dominant, so they are two different ball games in every respect," Ntini said. "For those of us who don't play football, we have to make sure we are 10% ahead of anything else, regarding fitness, regarding preparation, everything, for us to compete with the other players. In a white-dominant sport, to stay there for longer, those kind of things we have to go through."
Earlier in the year, in the Test series against England, Ntini became the fifth South African cricketer to play 100 Tests. His performance, however, had been on a decline and he was dropped after his 101st. He is currently representing Kent in the English domestic season but remains hopeful of a return to international cricket. "I have enjoyed my time [with Kent] and I would definitely love to come back, but first I must sort out my cricket life back home and see if I am still involved with the national team. If not, playing county cricket will be my second option," he said.
"I only need 10 [Test] wickets to get to 400, and I am crossing my fingers I will be given that opportunity. If it was not me, if it was anyone else, only 32 and still needing 10 wickets for 400, he would definitely [get the chance]. You know, 'We'll try and get him those wickets'." Ntini had expressed his disappointment at not having heard from the selectors since being dropped. Andrew Hudson, Cricket South Africa's chief selector, responded saying Ntini will be considered for selection for the national side's upcoming series, following his encouraging stint with Kent.