One of the fastest bowlers in World Cricket, South African Makhaya Ntini, on Wednesday visited Gaborone on personal business. The mega star could not escape the attention of the local cricket family who asked him to go and see their structures at the Cricket association. All he said was, “I am quite impressed for a small country like Botswana to have sound structures like this.”
The South – African mega star met about eighty young Cricket hopefuls who appeared overwhelmed by his presence as they lined up to shake hands with the man they always see mesmerizing opponents on television.
“I also started having interest in this game at this tender age.” he said You need to nurture these youngsters at this age to bring the best out of them. Cricket is a game that is still coming out of its shell in this region and if well looked after, Botswana can be a powerhouse.”
Perhaps what would stun young would-be cricketers is how Ntini got attracted to the game.
Ntini recalls that he was passing by one day when Border cricket development officer, Raymond Booi, was visiting his village, Mdingi. He and his friends were going to fetch cattle and horses when they were called closer. He was given a ball and told to bowl. The results stunned Booi. The cricket official knew from that day that he had found someone with enough potential to be turned into something special.
Booi arranged for Ntini to attend Dale College in King William’s Town, a school well known for its sporting prowess. When he arrived there at age 14, the budding cricket star could not speak a word of English.
“However, I took up the challenge of my new life and the opportunities it presented, and prospered,” said Ntini.
Ntini grew from strength to strength in his game, but there was a time when his life took a dip.
Ntini was accused of rape at a place where cricket was supposed to be played – the Buffalo Park Cricket ground in December 1998. He maintained his innocence but a shock awaited him in court. The judge delivered a verdict of guilty, with the dreams of his career and life ruined. The then 22year old found himself facing a possible six years in prison.
On appeal, Ntini’s conviction was overturned and he walked out of court a free man.
Botswana Cricket Association Secretary Sumod Damodar, said that Ntini had come to Botswana on personal business not for cricket.
“He was just kind enough to come and have a look at our structures at the association. Of course he is a super star. His presence really inspired many would be cricketers,” said Damodar.
Ntini told Sunday Standard Sport that he will organize for an official visit to Botswana on cricket business in the future.
“I can see that this association is working really hard to develop cricket in Botswana. This will only benefit the region. I hope other countries follow suit,” said Ntini.
A young cricket hopeful, Arnold Singh could not contain his joy at meeting Ntini.
“He is my hero. He plays at the highest level and is a trump card for his country. I am thrilled to have touched him. I will work my way up the ladder until I reach his standards,” said Singh.
Tshepiso Enole, another hopeful, said,” Makhaya Ntini is so down to earth. I never thought he would have time for us. He simply identified with us. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he is also black. I am looking forward to his official visit to Botswana. Then we will learn a lot from him.”
Ntini is well known worldwide for his artistic bowling. He has claimed the scalps of many opposing batsman in international assignments. He is simply a leading light in international cricket-with the promise that the best is surely still to come.