23 April 2008
According to the annual BMI Junior and Adult Sporttrack surveys, Makhaya Ntini is the most popular sportsman in South Africa. His successful career is the crown jewel in the achievements of cricket development in the country, and now he is doing his bit to give youngsters an opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
Ntini hails from Mdingi in the Eastern Cape and it was there that he was discovered as a cattle herder. Through the United Cricket Board’s (UCB) development programme he was offered a place at Dale College where he flourished and, with the continued support of the UCB (the forerunner of Cricket South Africa), he became an international star.
“The Mdingi Express” wants other children to be given the chance he was given. “I want to see more black players coming through,” he said. “I started off with Baker’s Mini Cricket and then went through the development programme, and I believe there are other Makhaya Ntinis out there.”
He has been proactive and is now creating the opportunities he spoke about by establishing an academy at the Willows Cricket Club in Mdantsane, East London, with the assistance of Old Mutual South Africa.
Old Mutual is spearheading the fund-raising efforts and has jump-started the project by donating R500 000. In addition, the company’s employees have raised a further R70 000 for the initiative.
The money was handed over to Ntini at a ceremony in Sandton on Monday. Speaking at the function, he said: “When you’ve played cricket for such a long time and people appreciate what you have done, this kind of thing means a lot. When you talk about legacy, it’s something that you give back to the kids, to South Africa, as a whole,” he said.
The total cost of the academy will be R3-million, with the balance of the funds to be raised over the next 13 months. The building of academy is part of the heritage projects related to Ntini’s benefit year, which the Border Cricket Board granted to its long-time stalwart.
The Proteas’ pace ace, along with Border Cricket CEO Themba Lupuwana, will be involved in the coaching of youngsters. He also aims to draw superstars from other countries to come and coach at the academy, players whom the children idolize, such as Shane Warne, Courtney Walsh, and Sachin Tendulkar.
He has previously expressed concerns about the number of young black players coming out of the Eastern Cape, saying the numbers are falling, but he believes the academy will make a positive difference. He says it will bring coaching knowledge back into the rural areas, which is where he wants to focus his work.
‘I will be hands on’
Ntini also says he will be intricately involved in the day-to-day running of the academy. “I will be hands on,” he promised.
Approaching 31 years of age, the greater part of Ntini’s international career is behind him, but the milestone of 100 tests is beckoning. He has played 87 tests so far and, with 344 wickets to his credit, is second only to Shaun Pollock, for the greatest number of test wickets taken by a South African.
Ntini made his international debut for South Africa in January 1998, in a one-day international against New Zealand in Perth. It was a tidy beginning as he captured 2 for 31 in 10 overs. South Africa won the game by 67 runs.
His test debut came in March 1998 in the first test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town. He claimed 1 for 57 and 1 for 17 in a 70-run victory for the Proteas.
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Ten years on, he owns the best ever bowling analysis in a test match by a South African of 13 for 132, which he claimed in the second test against the West Indies in Trinidad in 2005, with innings hauls of 6 for 95 and 7 for 37.
During his career, “the Mdingi Express” has also ranked in the top five of the world test and one-day international bowling rankings, and he has won all the major awards at the annual South African Cricket Awards.
One day, he hopes, he will proudly witness a player making his mark, winning awards, having followed a path previously trodden by his role model, Makhaya Ntini, thanks to an academy in the Eastern Cape.
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