KZN’s Ngidi gets his big break

2017-01-18 06:02
Titans fast bowler and Hilton College Old Boy Lungi Ngidi meets up with the Proteas today as they prepare for their upcoming T20 series against Sri Lanka, which begins on Friday. PHOTO: gallo images

Titans fast bowler and Hilton College Old Boy Lungi Ngidi meets up with the Proteas today as they prepare for their upcoming T20 series against Sri Lanka, which begins on Friday. PHOTO: gallo images

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IT’S been a while since Hilton College had a cricketer in the Proteas set-up but order has been restored with the selection of right-arm quick bowler Lungi Ngidi (20) in the T20 squad for the first two of three matches against Sri Lanka.

Ngidi matriculated in 2014, was head of house in that year and played for Hilton’s 1st cricket team for three years.

He was awarded honours but surprisingly did not make the SA Schools side. He made up for that with selection for the SA U19 side when he was in Grade 11, joining the side for a quadrangular tournament in India involving the hosts, Zimbabwe and Australia.

“This was my first big moment and I was duly selected for our first match against India, only to fall foul of heat stroke and not play again in the competition,” said Ngidi.

“Now I have another opportunity at the big time and I am praying I can pull through without any mishaps, should I make the starting eleven.”

Ngidi is a son of KwaZulu-Natal, having lived in Kloof and attended Highbury Prep School in Hillcrest before heading to Hilton.

The obvious question is why he is not plying his trade for the Dolphins instead of the Titans, where he is thriving under coach Mark Boucher.

“I decided to take up a bursary offer to Tuks where I am in my final year of studying industrial sociology and labour studies. I started playing Varsity cricket and moved through the ranks from there, making the Titans amateur side and then being selected for the senior side for some T20 matches last season,” he said.

“This season, I played in all the CSA T20 Challenge matches for the Titans and made my four-day debut, ironically against the Dolphins at Centurion where I claimed a five for.”

It was while in Bloemfontein with the Titans for a four-day clash against the Knights, that was subsequently washed out without a ball bowled, that Ngidi took the call from convenor of selectors Linda Zondi informing him of his inclusion in the Proteas T20 squad.

“It was a shock to me and I think my heart stopped for a few seconds. I never expected to be included, especially considering how much top class cricket I had played,” said Ngidi.

“I was happy to quietly go about my business, deliver consistent performances and see if anyone noticed. Getting that call was an emotional moment and has planted me on the road to exciting times as far as my cricket is concerned.”

It may have gone horribly wrong for Ngidi while at Hilton where he came under the guidance of 1st team cricket coach Neil Johnson, a former Zimbabwe, Dolphins and Cobras player among other teams.

“In my matric year, I had become rather lazy in my approach and attitude to cricket, doing the typical teenager thing. Neil sat me down for a chat, telling me I had a purpose in the game, I was an example to others who looked up to me and that I should adopt a more leading role in my talent as a cricketer,” he said.

“I look at where I am now and realise the wisdom of his words and his commitment in spending that time with me to put me back on track before I headed for varsity.”

With a foot in the door at international level, Ngidi obviously has his mind set on breaking into the ODI and ultimately the Test side.

“I enjoy all formats of the game but find the shorter versions test your skill and execution more. Don’t get me wrong, Test cricket remains the top of the mountain, but being slightly off rhythm or pace in the short stuff is definitely the fine line between success and failure and whether you will be on the field next time around,” he said.

Boucher has been a huge influence on Ngidi’s fledgling career, recognising his potential and selecting him for the senior side.

“Bouch is a legend and we are fortunate to have him at the Titans. He brings infinite experience and for the youngsters like myself, we would be foolish not to heed his advice and encouragement.”

As for the games against Sri Lanka, Ngidi believes the Protea ODI squad, which has a different look to it, will give the visitors a run for their money.

“SA cricket has great depth and it is heartening to see other players get an opportunity, myself included. We must use the moment to produce our best, put our skills to the fore and do us, the country and our supporters proud,” he said.

“I think we can do well and add the T20 trophy to our Test series whitewash.”

Ngidi met up with the squad in Pretoria yesterday as they begin training and preparation for the first T20 on Friday at Centurion, starting at 6 pm.

PROTEAS T20 SQUAD

Farhaan Behardien ( capt), Theunis de Bruyn, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heino Kuhn, David Miller, Mangaliso Mosehle, Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Jon-Jon Smuts.

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