Johannesurg: Just over 10 years ago, 15-year-old Makhaya Ntini was a barefoot kid playing on dust pitches in the Eastern Cape with any hope of ever playing for South Africa a distant dream. Now, with Allan Donald's talents fast fading and Shaun Pollock coping with the added responsibility of captaincy, it is Ntini who is revelling in the role of strike bowler. But it was so different when he was starting out. Back home, he had to borrow a pair of training shoes when two officials of the local cricket board academy came calling looking for raw talent.
Those men were Border Cricket Board academy and coaching manager Greg Hayes as well as Border Bears assistant coach Raymond Booi, who discovered Ntini in 1992 at a match at Mdingi Village outside King William's Town. "We gave him a chance to bowl and we were so impressed by his speed. We told ourselves this was a Proteas bowler in the making," Booi told a South African news agency. "During those days Ntini was bowling barefoot.
I gave him my old training shoes to bowl with until Hayes bought him new ones." A year later Ntini made the Border under-15 cricket side, which played the English under-15 team which was touring South Africa. The two men helped Ntini get into Dale College in King William's Town and they have supported him throughout his career. However, they do not take all of the credit for discovering the bowler saying that "many people helped in bringing him to where he is now.
The community support, players, Border Cricket and South Africa in general have made him what he is." Booi and Hayes have great expectations of Ntini in the World Cup as well as Monde Zondeki. "Give Ntini about three more years, he will be at his peak," said Hayes of the player who has 92 One-day wickets to his name from 64 matches.
Zondeki, 19, went to the same school as Ntini in King William's Town and has only played two matches, but announced himself in sensational style when he took a wicket with his first ball in international cricket when he dismissed Marvan Atapattu of Sri Lanka in Bloemfontein. "Many people say we have wrapped Zondeki in cotton wool. But he is one for the future and just look at what he has done so far," Hayes said.