Ntini wants back into the Proteas

2010-07-25 10:52

South African cricket and all who sail on her enjoyed a rousing day

of mutual back-slapping and, to be fair, some well deserved self-congratulation

on Tuesday during a day of award presentations which began at breakfast and

finished, for many, after midnight.

Hashim Amla collected no less than five trophies, included the two

most highly coveted by the players, Cricket of the Year and Players’ Player of

the Year because the winner is voted for by their team-mates.

But there was one Protea at the gala dinner who didn’t share the

breadth of smiles of his colleagues.

He smiled because he always does but it was

the first time in nearly a decade that he hadn’t even been nominated for an

award, let alone win one.

There was a steely glint in Makhaya Ntini’s eye which said there

was nothing wrong with one third of the trilogy which keeps sports careers alive

– form, fitness and desire.

A brief spell with English county Kent just over a month ago earned

him 20 wickets in just three first-class games and rave reviews suggesting the

form and fitness too were still with him.

But early season county cricket on lush green wickets is a fast

bowlers’ dream – particularly one as experienced as Ntini.

International cricket on “flat” pitches is a world away and the

great man need only remember his 100th and 101st Test matches, in which he

claimed just one wicket at a cost of almost 250 runs against England last

season, to remind himself of that.

The Proteas may not be looking in his direction at the moment but

the Warriors are still expecting great things.

“Makhaya hasn’t started training with us after his spell with Kent

and his soccer World Cup commitments but he is part of our Champions League

squad and will start training on August 20,” coach Russell Domingo told City

Press.

“I’m not sure what the national selectors are thinking but we were

delighted with his form last season.

He was outstanding for us in the MTN40 and

Pro20 and he was a real leader on the field,” Domingo said.

“Makhaya’s passion for the game has never been in question. But

coming back to the Warriors may have made him realise that he will have to work

hard on parts of his game to win his Proteas place back.”

Ntini fought for recognition as a cricketer rather than a black

cricketer for many years at the beginning of his career and always loathed the

perception that he was selected as a “quota” player.

He had no time for those

who said sportsmen should be selected on the basis of race.

Now, however, his resolve will be tested by those selectors and

administrators who are calling for him to be restored to the national team

because of who he is and not what he is.

Will he be able or willing to accept that domestic form counts for

more than his reputation and his 390 Test wickets?

“He has still got the desire to represent South Africa but who

knows?

It will probably all come down to his domestic performances this season,”

says ­Domingo.

On his return to South Africa from England Ntini said: “One of the

reasons I went to play in England is to show people that I am still the same

bowler and I can still win matches.

I hope they (selectors) were watching. I

just need to be told what I have to do to get my place back then I will do

it.

“I am not finished with international cricket.”

Unless, of course, it comes down to political influence.


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