Makhaya Ntini: Tracking the career of the new Zimbabwe Coach and former South African pacer
Makhaya Ntini is easily among the greatest players to have represented South Africa in international cricket. However, of late, he has been making news for becoming the coach of the Zimbabwean national cricket team. In what was a memorable career, Ntini achieved exceedingly high levels of success as a fast bowler for the Proteas. He is the third highest wicket-taker in Tests for his country with close to 400 wickets and is only below Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn. In ODI cricket, the 38-year old occupies the fourth position amid the top wicket-takers.
Being spotted and early years as a cricketer
The year was 1993 when a 15-year old boy from a small village named Mdingi was discovered courtesy of a development programme organised by the then governing body of South African cricket, the United Cricket Board. Little did anyone know at the time that Makhaya Ntini would go on to become one of the crown jewels for his country’s cricket. One of the officers named Raymond Booi identified his raw talent and informed the head of the development programme about him. Together, they had Ntini participate in a junior cricket festival and presented him with his first pair of boots for the event.
The pacer was fast-tracked into South Africa’s Under-19 team and later made his first-class debut in the 1995/96 domestic season. Things were progressing at a rapid pace for Ntini and on 16 January 1998, he became the first black cricketer to represent the country as he made his ODI debut against New Zealand. Just a couple of months later, he was drafted into the Test side which faced Sri Lanka at home but the youngster’s performance in his debut series was far from memorable.
Just a year after breaking into the national team, a storm hit the fast bowler’s career and everything looked to be heading south as he was convicted of rape. Ntini pleaded innocence and received the support of the cricket board in his efforts of getting acquitted, eventually turning out to be successful.
Return to the team and subsequent success
Makhaya Ntini did not return to the Proteas national team until the year 2000 and in just the 2nd Test after his comeback, he produced a brilliant spell of 6 for 66 against New Zealand which earned him a ‘Man of the Match’ award. Ntini’s breakthrough year, though, turned out to be 2002 in which he claimed 40 wickets in 8 Tests and formed a deadly bowling combination with the legendary Shaun Pollock. The following year took him to greater heights as a bowler as he ended up bagging a tally of 59 wickets in 11 Test matches, the highlight being a 10-wicket haul against England at Lord’s, which was the first by a South African bowler at the ground.
Meanwhile, Ntini was also producing the goods consistently in ODI cricket and managed to grab 50 wickets in the year 2002 and 45 in 2003. The speedster really reached the peak of his powers in Test cricket during the years 2005 and 2006. Be it his career-best 13-wicket haul against West Indies at Port of Spain in 2005 or the 10 for 145 he took against New Zealand at Centurion, there was hardly anything that the Mdingi lad could do wrong.
Dip in form, ouster from the team and eventual retirement
Despite being a regular member of the team during the last few years of his career, Makhaya Ntini had certainly started to lose the precision that made him such a dangerous bowler. Although he managed to take 54 wickets in 2008 and also breached the 350-wicket milestone in the process, his performance was way below the high standards he had set in the past.
The beginning of the end for Ntini’s career came about when he found himself out of the ODI team after a bilateral home series against Australia in April 2009. Later that year, England toured South Africa to play a four-match Test series and the first Test of the series was the veteran’s 100th of a glittering career. However, he could muster just 2 wickets in the match and followed it up with a wicket-less showing in the next Test at Durban.
South Africa were quick to drop Makhaya Ntini from the Test team, too, based on his poor performances and it signalled the end of a great journey for the paceman. His last appearance in international cricket was during a T20I against India in 2011, post which Ntini drew the curtains on his career. He ended with 390 wickets in a 101-Test long career and 265 scalps in 173 ODIs.
Coaching career so far
Days prior to the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, Zimbabwe Cricket acquired the services of Makhaya Ntini as the team’s bowling coach for the tournament. Zimbabwe performed quite poorly and crashed out in the qualifier stage after losing to Afghanistan in their last game. A performance review was done by the board which ensured the sacking of Dav Whatmore as head coach and Ntini being elevated to assume the role for India’s tour to the African nation.
The start has not been great for the iconic Proteas bowler as the Indians have already won the ODI series and he will be looking to turn things around for Zimbabwe in the 2-match T20I series.