Ngidi's metamorphosis from frail to fit and firing

Lungi Ngidi (Gallo)
Lungi Ngidi (Gallo)

Centurion - The smile on 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi's face told its own story at the end of day two of the second Test between the Proteas and India at Centurion. 

He had to remain patient in the field as South Africa's premier seamers and spinner Keshav Maharaj were given the responsibility of getting through the Indian batters, but in his second spell in front of his home support he finally got on the board with his first Test wicket. 

It was a probing delivery that had Indian wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel in two minds, and the result was an edge through to Quinton de Kock for the biggest roar of the day.

Ngidi got through nine overs, taking 1/26.

"A Test debut was a dream of mine and I’m happy to say it came true on my home ground. It was a very good day," a beaming Ngidi told media afterwards.

“If I’m hyper-critical, I could have done a bit better. But I’ll take it.”

But things haven't always been this good for the speedster. 

Ngidi burst onto the international scene a year ago when he played three T20Is against Sri Lanka. He bowled at pace throughout that series and emerged with six impressive wickets.

Cricket lovers immediately took notice of him and, given his youth, he was instantly identified as one of South African cricket's brightest prospects. 

Ngidi, it seemed, had arrived at the tender age of 20. 

But what was supposed to be a breakthrough year for him became a nightmarish one as first a side strain and then a back problem kept him out for the majority of 2017. 

His conditioning was labelled a problem, and there were fears that this unique talent would never reach his full potential. 

"That was probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my career, going from such a high to such a low in such a short space of time," he revealed on Sunday.

"It was tough for me because I thought I was doing all the right things and the results just weren’t going my way."

After months of rehab, intense physical training and a dose of self-reflection, Ngidi has come back stronger than he ever was. 

You can see it in his physical appearance, but he believes it is about more than that.

"I got a lot of time to reflect and get to know myself as a person and I got through it," he said.

"I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was and it helped me with a lot of confidence going forward."

Ngidi revealed that dietary changes and some hard conversations with some of his management at the Titans were key to a metamorphosis that saw him tone up and lose 8kg.

"The whole off-season I was actually in the gym. I had to lose a lot of weight," he said.

"I think one of the main things was diet and changing my lifestyle. That was very difficult but it helped me in the long run.

"A lot of credit goes to our trainer and physio and also our coach. We had to have a few hard chats behind closed doors and some honest chats as well."

Hopefully, those days of fitness worries are behind him, because Ngidi still has a lot of important work to do over the next three days.

India will resume day three on 183/5 and the still trail the Proteas by 152.


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