Makhaya Ntini, ruled out of the third Test against Australia at Sydney with a knee injury, has found some consolation in being named South Africa's most popular sportsperson, the first time the honour has been bestowed upon a cricketer.
Ntini, 28, edged out footballer Jabu Pule in a research poll conducted by the South Africa Press Association. The research also showed that cricket, with 11.3 million spectators, was the second-most popular sport in South Africa behind football (14.7 million). The number of black spectators shows a continued upward growth, and they now make up the majority of the country's cricket watchers.
"This independent research shows that we are well on our way to achieving our aim of making South African cricket a truly national sport," said Gerald Majola, Cricket South Africa's chief executive. "Makhaya's popularity is a result of his hard work, winning ways and warm personality. He is a credit to cricket and to the nation."
Currently ranked fourth in the ICC Test bowling rankings, Ntini has taken 230 Test wickets from 61 matches. In 124 one-day matches he has 195 wickets. He also had a good 2005, taking 44 wickets from 9 Tests and 36 from 21 one-day internationals.
Ntini has been consistently been troubled with torn tendons in his left knee since making his international debut against Sri Lanka at Cape Town in 1998, and will play no part in the final Test of South Africa's tour to Australia.