India in SA

Ntini takes a final bow

2011-01-09 22:30
Makhaya Ntini (Themba Hadebe, AP)

Durban - Makhaya Ntini's international career came to an end on Sunday on an occasion which was at least as much about emotion and show business as it was about cricket.

It was an official Twenty20 international, which India won by 21 runs - but Ntini's farewell, the setting in a World Cup football stadium, a Bollywood concert and a string of ceremonial presentations vied with the cricket for top billing.

President Jacob Zuma was on hand as Ntini, 33, was thanked for the contribution he made to the game as the first black African cricketer to represent South Africa.

"Thank you each and every one. It has been a wonderful 12 years," said Ntini at the presentation.

Earlier the fast bowler spoke of his pride at having gone from "a man behind the cow dung" to a career in which he played in 101 Test matches and 172 ODIs.

He urged Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the only black current member of the Test side, to "fill these shoes for us as black people everywhere in the country and in the world".

Tsotsobe said Ntini had been an inspiration.

"Growing up there was nothing much I knew about cricket, but I was impressed that there was someone of colour representing us in cricket," said Tsotsobe, who has just finished a three match Test series with India.

Ntini conceded 46 runs in his four overs without taking a wicket, although he held a good catch on the boundary to dismiss India's top scorer, Rohit Sharma, who made 54.

But a comparatively lacklustre performance didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, especially at the end of his spell.

When he bowled his last delivery the crowd of 50 000 rose in a standing ovation for the man known as the "Mdingi Express".

Ntini said he would not forget "the way the people roared when I bowled the last ball".

Skipper Johan Botha said it was a great occasion and paid tribute to Ntini.

"Makhaya has been a legend and an inspiration not just to us cricketers but to everyone in South Africa.”

Sachin Tendulkar, the only player still active who was involved in the first international match between India and South Africa - in Calcutta in November 1991 - was honoured for his ongoing contribution to cricket.

Tendulkar paid tribute to Ntini.

"He was a fierce competitor and a true champion because you knew that at the end of the day Makhaya would still be running in hard and trying to get you out."

Before the match, special caps were presented to members of the South African team, led by Clive Rice, who made the historic 1991 tour, which marked the return of South Africa to international cricket after a 21-year absence because of the country's race policies.

Ntini had not played for South Africa since being dropped in December 2009 after the second Test against England.

Sunday's match also commemorated the 150th anniversary of Indians settling in South Africa and the links forged between the two countries, especially in cricket.

The cricket was followed by a concert with a line-up which included Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.


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