Ntini is fired up for a whole new ball game

Given there may be no more significant athlete in South African history, it seems ironic that most of the football supporters now heading for the country have probably never heard of Makhaya Ntini.

The adulation with which a cricketer will be greeted by the home nation's soccer fans when appearing in his role of World Cup ambassador may therefore leave many somewhat confused.

Sitting outside the Kent dressing room on a cold afternoon at Durham's Riverside Stadium, Ntini smiles, as he so often does. "Yes, yes indeed, especially as it's a different ball game. But 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.

"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. For those of us who don't play football, we have to make sure we are 10 per cent 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." Which, of course, goes much of the way towards explaining his iconic status.

For a poor black boy to have carved a hugely successful international career in a sport where historically and culturally the odds were so stacked against him, means Ntini has become so admired in his country. Naturally, this gives him huge influence. It was Ntini, not Jacques Kallis or Graeme Smith, who was invited to appear alongside Charlize Theron and David Beckham when the World Cup group draw was televised last year.

It does not seem to have changed him. When he was dropped after his 101th Test, played against England at Durban last December, it would have been easy for Ntini to accept that his international career was over and set about exploiting his celebrity to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

A lucrative season or two in county cricket could be part of that, and might still be, but the 32-year-old refuses to accept his international career is over.

"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'."

The implication would be a troubling one were it not for the fact that Ntini's omission appeared justified on cricketing grounds. On the other hand his domestic record this year for both Warriors in South Africa and then for Kent (for whom he took 24 first-class wickets in five games) has been impressive. But it has gone unacknowledged by Cricket South Africa, according to Ntini. Yet while he was not included in the squad to tour West Indies, Andrew Hudson, South Africa's convener of selectors, has subsequently said that his form for Kent is encouraging and that he will be considered for selection for upcoming series.

In the meantime, Ntini will be at home, enjoying the World Cup and continuing to raise funds to build a cricket academy in his home, the Eastern Cape. "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.

"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."

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
News
The show will be billed as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live
people
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence