20 November 2006
Cricket has no shortage of support among SA fans, according to the 2006 BMI Junior Sporttrack survey, which ranks sports, and sportsmen and women, for their popularity among South Africans between the ages of 13 and 18.
According to the survey, cricket is the only sport in the country to feature in the top three most popular across all race groups. And bowler Makhaya Ntini is a massive hit with the country’s teenagers.
BMI Junior Sporttrack ranks Ntini as South Africa’s most popular sportsperson among 13- to 18-year-olds, up from third place in 2005 – ahead of soccer players Jabu Mahlangu (formerly Pule), Benni McCarthy and Lucas Radebe. Another cricketer, Shaun Pollock, is fifth in the rankings.
Most marketable sportsperson in SA
The results reflect that Ntini is probably the most marketable sportsperson in South Africa – in the 2005 BMI Adult Sporttrack survey, he came in at number one.
Interestingly, his ascension to number one in the survey among SA’s teenagers marks the first time the top position has been held by a non-soccer player.
Since the retirement of fast bowler Allan Donald, and as Shaun Pollock moves towards the end of his test playing days, Ntini has been called on to shoulder more of the load for the Proteas who, since their return to international cricket, have traditionally produced a strong pace bowling attack – and he has succeeded brilliantly.
Second in test rankings
Ntini is currently ranked second in the test bowling rankings, trailing only Sri Lankan superstar Muttiah Muralitharan, and 10 places clear of Pollock, who is the second highest rated South African bowler.
In one-day international cricket, he also shows up well, holding down ninth place in the rankings.
Pollock is top of the pile in the limited-overs game, well clear of Australian Glenn McGrath in second spot.
The ginger-haired Kwazulu-Natalian was also the only sportsperson to be voted in the top 10 most popular across all race groups in the BMI Junior Sporttrack survey.
When the numbers are extended to include the top 20, Ntini, swimmer Ryk Neethling and soccer player Benni McCarthy all feature.
Across all race groups, cricket is the only sport to feature in the top three. Overall, it is the second most popular sport after soccer, with rugby in third place and athletics in fourth spot.