England in SA
Ntini set to make history
Makhaya Ntini (Gallo Images)
Centurion - When South African fast bowler Makhaya Ntini steps onto the field at the start of the first Castle Test against England at Supersport Park on Wednesday, he will make history by becoming the first black South African to earn 100 Test caps.
Ntini is only the fifth South African to achieve this distinction - after Jacques Kallis (130), Mark Boucher (125), Shaun Pollock (108) and Gary Kirsten (101) and only the sixth fast bowler around the world to make 100 Test appearances.
"At the start of my career, I never dreamt of playing for South Africa," Ntini told journalists on Monday.
"Being one of the only black players to come from a rural area and play for South Africa - you can't explain it, it is history on its own.
"I feel so proud - there are not many of us who have made it to 100 Test caps."
He attributed his success over the years to hard work.
"People who live in my area know how hard I work to keep fit," he said.
"I'm always on my bicycle, or running or working to keep fit. I'm very proud that I have had no serious injuries over the 12 years I have been playing Test cricket, and that is because I work very hard at keeping fit.
"Cricket is my job and for me to succeed I have to put a lot into it." The paceman needs just 12 wickets to become only the second South African, after Shaun Pollock, to take 400 Test wickets. Asked whether he hoped to achieve this milestone during the Test series against England, Ntini replied that he was hoping to take 34.
"I've taken 13 wickets in one Test before, so I know I can take 12 in a match. But what I want is another 34 wickets so that I can overtake Shaun Pollock."
He said he had no immediate plans to retire.
"I'd like to play another 20 years," he joked. "But when my body tells me I've had enough, that's when I'll stop."
Ntini said when he became the first black African to play Test cricket for South Africa, the significance of his achievement had not sunk in immediately.
"I don't think I realised how important it was," he said.
"I was still trying to find my feet. It was still a white dominated sport, and for me to stick around was quite hard. But then I realised that I belong in this country and I belong in this sport."
Ntini's early career nearly came to an abrupt end when he was found guilty of rape in 1999. However, the verdict was overturned on appeal and Ntini returned to rebuild his career.
"I try to take the negative things and turn them into positives," he said. "I think you can use them to make you a better person."
Ntini said South Africa were determined to win the four-Test series against England and regain their position as number one Test nation, which they lost to India earlier this month.
"Losing our number one spot puts quite a lot of pressure on our shoulders," he said. "But we believe, as long as the weather is good, we can beat England and take that position back."