- Proteas legend Makhaya Ntini’s dream of founding a cricket academy in Mdantsane could take significant steps forward after meeting with Eastern Cape Sports MEC Fezeka Nkomonye.
- Ntini aims to nurture young Eastern Cape talent and scour the breadth of the province to look for promising cricketers.
- Nkomonye says the 101-Test veteran, who spoke out in support of Lungi Ngidi’s stance on Black Lives Matter, is underutilised.
Eastern Cape Sports MEC Fezeka Nkomonye revealed at a press briefing plans for Proteas legend Makhaya Ntini to help found a cricket academy in Mdantsane, East London.
Nkomonye met with Ntini on Monday, after the former fast bowler revealed what he felt were painful experiences inside the Proteas team environment during an international career spanning 13 years.
The conversations, sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement and Lungi Ngidi’s stance, have accelerated Ntini’s academy plans, which he said he has had for 12 years but weren’t proactively followed up on after previous chats with government authorities.
"I’m a rural boy, I was born in a village and I know the life of a village and township boy," Ntini said.
"My vision has always been to have an academy, not in town where everyone is close to the facilities, but in the township. Mdantsane was one of the main places I identified 12 years ago.
"Everyone knows the government politics and all that kind of stuff can lead to things being discussed but there being no way forward after the conversations to follow up on what was said.
"But now, I will make sure the kids who are the future of Eastern Cape cricket – from every corner of the province, Tsitsikama to Kokstad – don’t lose hope and they don’t get left behind. I wanted to build them a home. The MEC said we can’t let the plan disappear; we need to bring it to life."
After playing 101 Tests for South Africa and 173 One Day Internationals, Ntini was appointed bowling coach of the Zimbabwe national team in 2016 before assuming the head coach reins for a brief period.
But in 2018 his contract was not renewed and he came back to South Africa to become a cricket commentator. Nkomonye said a commentary gig was not sufficient usage of Ntini’s expertise, which is why she reached out to the 43-year-old even prior to his revelations on his experiences in cricket.
"I have always felt that Makhaya is underutilised," she said.
"You can’t have him going to Zimbabwe (to coach) and after that the only thing we hear about him is that he’s a cricket commentator. That’s underutilisation.
"I wanted to know what his aspirations are and share what mine were for the province and hopefully we can work together to achieve those. We need to hold each other’s hands in terms of transforming the sport.
"Makhaya has had a dream of identifying talent. The great thing about the Eastern Cape is that even rural areas have cricket clubs where all the game’s formats are played in tournaments such as the annual Ngumbela cricket tournament and Amacal'egusha.
"But at the end of those tournaments, you don’t really see those players breaking through the system. That’s where I thought Makhaya could come in and identify avenues to help – even through the academy – to ensure we track and nurture that talent and filter it through into the system.
"This academy should ensure that black, talented kids are close to education centres, get bursaries and they get game time and not be water boys when they get into cricket."
The MEC said she hoped to have the academy formed, even in a beginner stage, in 2021 but they would need to solicit financial support for the project from the national sports ministry and private corporations.