What’s your best ‘Makkie’ moment?

2009-12-19 00:00

AS the fairytale that has been Makhaya Ntini’s career takes its latest twist, I thought it fitting to wonder out loud what it is that the herdboy from Mdingi has meant for South African sport.

Never mind cricket and quotas, I am only interested in picking a few memories that mean Ntini will remain in our hearts long after he has stopped plugging away for the Proteas.

I watched with keen interest on Tuesday night when SuperSport had a special show to commemorate “Makkie’s” ascension into the 100 club.

What struck me, and I am sure many other fans, is the respect that Ntini has from the likes of Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and retired legends like Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald.

It’s not so much the cricketing talent and endeavour — which we have all witnessed — that they touched on. All of them pointed to Ntini’s remarkable handling of being the face of black cricket, and also of carrying that burden for as long as he has with the ready smile always there.

There have been rumblings in the past of Ntini’s unique challenges, but Tuesday illuminated — albeit lightly — some of the things that he has endured.

His description of an encounter with “Jet”, former national coach Ray Jennings, may have broken a lesser man. But as Ntini said, he thrives on those who doubt him, because it only serves to inspire him to greater heights.

It’s been a compelling story, not least for the cricketing milestones he has achieved. So, in no particular order, here are my top three “Makkie moments”.

My introduction to “Makkie” was through a television advert that took us back to his Mdingi roots. I am sure you all remember it, the uneven field with cows masquerading as boundary fielders, and the countless cow dung patches that the bowler needed to negotiate before reaching the pitch.

It was, in many ways, cricket as I had known it at the start. When we played in the streets of Imbali, it was a matter of using anything we could for bats and wickets.

So seeing “Makkie” back where he started was a great source of inspiration.

The wide-eyed, gap-toothed quickie was simply that. A diamond in the rough that still needed a few touch-ups.

I have no doubt that few, even Ntini himself, thought he would get as far as he has.

The second Ntini moment was one that occurred quite recently. During the Champions Trophy in Pretoria and Johannesburg, actually. Ntini was in the Proteas squad, but his days in the shorter version had been numbered since last summer’s visit by Australia.

There are fresher, faster men pushing past the old warhorse in the hurly-burly of ODI cricket, and it is no great surprise that he has slipped off that particular pecking order.

If anything, he should be quietly proud of his successors, Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, because they both come from his neck of the woods.

And Tsotsobe in particular has been quick to pinpoint Ntini as the inspiration in his career.

So the Ntini I bumped into at the Champions Trophy had a little more time on his hands. And boy, was I glad!

I found myself at Sandton City, in the Michelangelo Towers to be precise!

I had encountered a little technical problem sending my story for the day, and it was getting late.

I was desperate for an Internet cafe, but Sandton’s well-heeled occupants obviously browse the net from the comforts of their penthouses!

As a last resort, I had sneaked into the hotel housing the players.

Who else would I bump into, but the bubbly “Makkie”, resplendent in oversize headphones and being chased by autograph hunters?

I figured he may know a man who knew someone, and I was in some luck!

Not only did the great man point me in the right direction, he escorted me to the VIP Internet lounge. Now, despite my stroke of luck, the thrifty journalist in me was already pondering the rate per minute in the lofty heights of the Michelangelo Towers.

But, “Makkie” sealed his legendary status in my book by having a word with the burly security guard.

When I reluctantly pulled out my wallet, said security man told me to never mind, as “Boet Makhaya has told me to charge it to his account”.

Well, to say I was bowled over was an understatement. I had only spoken to Ntini on a few occasions the previous summer in the series against Australia. I could hardly call him a buddy — more a Facebook friend, if you know what I mean.

So the gesture was most appreciated, and more so because it was something that he really didn’t have to do.

But my favourite “Makkie” moment was in the immortal ’438 game’.

We all know the story and the stupefying ending provided by Boucher’s hoik over midwicket. But, in my mind, one of the greatest ever shots played under pressure by a tailender — no, make that lower order, bowling all-rounder — was Ntini’s deft dabble to third man.

Any connoisseur of batting down in the dolrdrums will know that the sweaty palms take over even before you reach the crease!

You have a hundred words of wisdom from “batsmen” who have already given their lot away, but are adamant that you cannot screw up the imminent moment of glory.

And just to make “Makkie’s” task that bit harder, he had one of the slickest leather flingers in the game charging at him.

Brett Lee probably fancied his chances, thinking that Ntini would go in a blaze of timber tumbling after having a mighty heave.

Well, our “Makkie” only went and produced the dreamiest glance seen since re-admission.

Heck, even Barry Richards would have been proud at the simple efficiency of the stroke.

Call me biased, but I will not be chalking that stroke off my greatest moments list.

As Daryll Cullinan said at the time: ‘Makhaya Ntini — shot of your life!”

We have supported him, and now we salute him. Even when Ntini hangs up the bowling boots — and the bat — we will not forget the boy from Mdingi who done good.


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