SA newbie Ngidi in quest for glory
Learn from the best and the rest will follow, says Titans’ pace ace ahead of Sri Lanka T20 showdown
LUNGI Ngidi is 20. He wants to learn, but not in the clichéd manner so many young players – or even older players – talk about always learning. Ngidi has a thirst for knowledge that marries learning with ambition. He may be young, but reckons he deserves to be in the Proteas squad.
Ngidi is among the half a dozen newbies in the Proteas squad preparing for the T20 series against Sri Lanka this week, young men who coach Russell Domingo said were desperate to make an impression. In Ngidi’s case he’s already been looking for tips, from current Proteas players like Kagiso Rabada to his captain for the coming series, Farhaan Behardien, and former wearers of the dark green cap, like his Titans’ coach Mark Boucher.
They’ve all made an impression on him and he is looking forward to applying some of what he’s learned from them when he gets a chance at the highest level in the next few days. Having only played seven first-class matches and having less than two seasons’ worth of franchise experience, naturally there’ll be those wondering if Ngidi has been elevated too quickly – he doesn’t see it that way.
“I’ve had many conversations with Behardien… having chatted to him (it’s made me think) sometimes it’s better to throw someone in at the deep end and fast track-them through their learning,” Ngidi said ahead of the squad’s first training session at the Wanderers yesterday. “I’ve had a few conversations with KG (Rabada) as well, those have been insightful. I feel I know already – once I’ve played – what’s required to stay (at this level). I’ve got a pretty good mindset about how to go about it.”
He featured in every match for the Titans in their successful T20 Challenge campaign this season, taking nine wickets at an economy rate of 8.27. He’s also made an impression in the four-day Sunfoil Series, claiming 11 wickets at 21.90.
Plucked from relative obscurity last season when then-Titans’ coach Rob Walter took him from the club structures at the University of Pretoria and included him in a couple of T20 matches for the franchise before he’d even played for the local semi-professional side, Ngidi understands the fast-tracking process.
“That’s a step CSA have taken in the right direction. If you are putting in the performances, why wait? That gave me a lot of motivation, in that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you are getting an opportunity if you perform.”
Boucher has continued that development this season, where Ngidi has quickly become an important part of the Titans team. “Last season, coming in (to the franchise game) you realised the intensity and the speed of the game and you have to adjust pretty quickly. There’s no time to find your feet.
“Boucher has given me the hope that there was a good opportunity I could play for South Africa and (with) him having played for South Africa, over 100 Tests, he knows what a player needs to do in terms of playing for South Africa.”
Ngidi has the physical gifts a fast bowler requires – height, great athleticism and, when he finds the right rhythm, he’s genuinely quick. His natural length is slightly back of a good length and he said he’s taken tips from batsmen about the best areas to bowl.
South Africa play the first of three T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka at Ngidi’s homeground, SuperSport Park in Centurion, on Friday.