Ngidi's maturity stands out on dream debut

Lungi Ngidi (Gallo)
Lungi Ngidi (Gallo)

Centurion – At just 21-years-old, South African cricket's latest hero speaks like he has been playing the game at the highest level for years. 

Lungi Ngidi is calm and level-headed in his assessment of all things cricket, while his deep understanding of the game shines through. 

Because of his success in the second Test against India at Centurion on debut - his 6/39 in the second innings earned him the man-of-the-match award - Ngidi was made to face media more than any other player during the match. 

And while he more than performed on the field, Ngidi was a natural off it too as both the local and Indian media were impressed by how well he came across for such a young man. 

There were none of the jitters on display that one usually associates with young internationals making their debuts, many of them significantly older than Ngidi is.

Instead, Ngidi sat back, smiled and answered questions in the most transparent way possible without ever getting caught up in the moment.   

It was precisely Ngidi's ability to stay grounded that struck Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis most.

"It speaks volumes for his maturity," Du Plessis said of Ngidi's debut performance. 

"When new guys come into the team, from my side it’s important to make sure they feel like they belong, but then for them to perform means they have good heads on their shoulders and don’t see the occasion as too big.

"They just see it as another game where they can perform.

"When I looked at Lungi I never sensed any nerves. He was really calm and just wanted to bowl. His control impressed me a lot, which is a good sign for his Test career going forward."

There is no doubt that Ngidi would have celebrated with his team-mates long into the night on Wednesday, and given that he has gone from career-threatening injury to Test match success in less than a year, one would hope that he did.  

But his eye is clearly on more than just the ‘now’.

"I’d love this to be a long career," he said.

"I know many people talk about how injuries have affected me in the past, but I feel like this is a new start.

"In the past, I didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest. Now I’ve sort of found my feet and I know which path I’m going down as a cricketer."

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