Setback for young star

2014-03-04 00:00

HAD it not been for a stress fracture in his back, Hilton College fast bowler Lungi Ngidi could well have been one of the young Baby Proteas who conquered the world by winning the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Dubai last week.

The 17-year-old was part of the SA U19 squad that toured India last year, and would have been considered a shoo-in for a place in the team that represented the country at this year’s World Cup.

However, it was not meant to be, as Lungi — following doctors’ advice — was forced to sit out this year’s CSA Franchise Cubs Week or risk being unable to play cricket for up to two years.

“I was distraught and quite emotional for a few weeks after finding out that the injury cancelled my chances of going to the U19 World Cup,” the gigantic teenager, who could easily pass for a lock forward, told The Witness yesterday.

Watching his team-mates dominate the competition the way they did was a bitter-sweet moment for Lungi. He was happy they were doing well, but he would have been there were it not for his injury.

“At times, I was also nervous for them. There’s been this ‘chokers tag’ that’s been following the team for a while,” he said.

The U19 team, led from the front by Aiden Makram, was, however, able to overcome the tag on the weekend, as they beat Pakistan in the final by six wickets.

Despite missing out on that defining moment, Lungi looked forward to being with the U19s again.

“There’s a tour to England later this year. I’m trying to get my body fit to make sure that I’m ready for that. I’m not sure how selection will work, but I’ll work towards that,” he said.

Speaking of the U19s, he said out of the group, the players who really stood out were fellow fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin, and all-rounder and former skipper Yaseen Valli.

Speaking about Rabada, the country’s brightest fast bowling prospect, he said: “When we’re on tour, I’ll ask him for advice. Ngazibini Sigwili also.

“We’ve got a good relationship going among the bowlers,” he said.

Due to his injury, he has not been able to play any games for the Hilton College first team this year, but he was looking forward to rejoining his school team-mates on the field in the fourth term for what would be his last term at the school that has nurtured his cricketing ability.

Interviewed by The Witness last year, the then 16-year-old said he dreamt of one day opening the bowling for South Africa alongside Dale Steyn, and counted him alongside Makhaya Ntini, Brett Lee and Kemar Roach as his favourite bowlers.

His plan after school was to work for a scholarship to study further next year and hoped to get the nod into the Dolphins academy.

“The Dolphins is the franchise I’d like to see myself playing for. I see myself going through the ranks at the Dolphins and hopefully one day play for the Proteas,” the youngster from Kloof said.

NAME: Lungi Ngidi

AGE: 17

HEIGHT: 1,93 metres

SCHOOL: Hilton College

GRADE: 12

HONOURS: SA U19 tour to India in 2013, KZN Inland U19 (2012, 2013), KZN Inland U15 (2011)

AMBITION: To one day play for the Proteas.

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