July 06, 1977, Mdingi, nr King William's Town, Cape Province
Also Known As
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
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.
Ntini relies on relentlessness, which requires him to strive for levels of fitness not previously countenanced by cricketers, and an unfailingly ebullient character, which buoys 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.
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 programme. 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 season, 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.
Ntini returned 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.
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 Africa history had long-since been secured.
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