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

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

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.

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