Emotional farewell for Ntini

Makhaya Ntini makes an emotional farewell to international cricket at the Moses Mabhida Stadium tomorrow afternoon during the Twenty20 international being played between South Africa and India.

Ntini will turn out for the Proteas in front of a sell-out crowd of 50 000 fans, the biggest to watch a cricket match in Africa.

The event will also include a Bollywood concert to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Indians to arrive in South Africa.

“It will be an emotional game. It would be an emotional moment for anybody. Finishing and saying goodbye to something that you love. That will make it a special day,” said Ntini.

The 33-year-old was born in Mdingi in Eastern Cape and moved to King Williamstown’s Dale College, where he developed his game. He was selected for the under-19 team to tour England under then-captain Neil McKenzie and his teammates included Boeta Dippenaar, Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher.

When Ntini made his Test debut, he was just 20-years-old after he had impressed for his province Border. His debut may have come sooner than expected and the next few years were difficult as he was embroiled in legal allegations but, once cleared to play again, he never looked back and made the most of his opportunities showing a positive side and a strong character which buoyed the team on and off the field for many years.

Ntini made his one-day international debut at the Waca in Perth, Australia, during the 1997/98 tour of Australia and, more importantly, his Test debut at Newlands against Sri Lanka two months later.

He went on to play 101 Tests for South Africa and although he lacked express pace and variation, he did take 390 Test wickets.

He is South Africa’s second-highest wicket taker of all time, a member of the distinguished 300 wickets club, has the best match aggregate ever for South Africa (13/132 against the West Indies) and he is the only South African bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test match at Lord’s.

Ntini also owns the best bowling figures by a South African in an ODI – six for 22 against Australia in Cape Town in 2005/06. He took 265 wickets in 173 one-day matches at an average of 24.53.

In South Africa, he will be remembered not only for his cricketing achievements but for his colourful, exuberant personality and a model of discipline and dedication. He has been a role model, a hero and a source of upliftment for millions.

But, for Ntini, his career has always been about the people who have supported him, who have made him the people’s champion.

“I am grateful to Cricket South Africa for giving me this opportunity to say goodbye to my fans in South Africa and throughout the cricketing world,” he said.

“It is going to be a full stadium and it is going to be televised around the world. And that is fantastic. They (the fans) love me and they have spent every moment with me and it is going to be a great moment.”

For all his wickets and century of Test matches Ntini’s abiding memory will be the day he received his Test cap and the dismissal of one of Sri Lanka’s batting greats, Aravinda de Silva, as his first Test victim at Sahara Park Newlands in 1998.

“The highlight for any cricketer is your first match and to be given your green and gold cap,” Ntini reflected.

“That stands out above everything else that I have achieved. I always wanted to wear that green and gold cap. De Silva helped to make it special.”

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