India in SA
SA's champion bids farewell
Durban - Few people will ever forget the emotional tide on which the country’s fans carried Shaun Pollock when he played his final five ODIs for the Proteas against the West Indies in 2008.
It was a very special moment for anybody who was present at any of the matches…..and, of course, most of all for Pollock himself.
We can expect very much the same situation to unfold when Makhaya Ntini plays his final match for his beloved Proteas at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Ntini has been South Africa’s most popular sports personality for an extended period of time and that has been as much for the wonderful way he has interacted with the public as for the phenomenal list of cricket successes he has achieved during that period.
He is South Africa’s second leading wicket taker of all time, a member of the distinguished 300 wickets club, he has the best match aggregate ever for South Africa (13/132 against the West Indies) and he is the only South African bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test match at Lord’s.
But, for Ntini, his career has always been about the people who have supported him, who have made him the people’s champion, and he confirmed this at a farewell Media conference on Friday.
“I am grateful to Cricket South Africa for giving me this opportunity to say goodbye to my fans in South Africa and throughout the cricketing world,” he commented. “It is going to be a full stadium and it is going to be televised around the world. And that is fantastic. They (the fans) love me and they have spent every moment with me and it is going to be a great moment.
“It will be an emotional game. It would be an emotional moment for anybody. Finishing and saying goodbye to something that you love….that will make it a special day.”
For all his wickets and century of Test matches Ntini’s abiding memory will be the day he received his Test cap and the dismissal of one of Sri Lanka’s batting greats, Aravinda de Silva, as his first Test victim at Sahara Park Newlands in 1998. That moment still overshadows all else.
“The highlight for any cricketer is your first match and to be given your green and gold cap,” Ntini reflected. “That stands out above everything else that I have achieved. I always wanted to wear that green and gold cap. De Silva helped to make it special.”