The Hindu Explains: From who is Lungi Ngidi to why U.K. needs Minister for loneliness

Who is Lungi Ngidi?

Lungi Ngidi of the Proteas takes 6 wicket for 39 runs during day 5 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on January 17, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Lungi Ngidi of the Proteas takes 6 wicket for 39 runs during day 5 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on January 17, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Just 21, he is already making international batsmen edge, duck or weave away from his thunderbolts. The tall, barrel-chested Lungi Ngidi, born to domestic workers in Kloof near Durban, not just demolished the Indian batting lineup on his Test debut at Centurion during the second Test but also gave enough indication that he could form a long-standing pair of pace and venom with Kagiso Rabada, the present No. 1 bowler in the ICC rankings.

How did he take to bowling?

The story goes that Ngidi wanted to become a batsman but could not afford a cricket kit. Once he took to bowling, it was clear that he could generate speed. His promise as a cricketer earned him a scholarship in the prestigious Hilton College, where Ngidi was coached by former Zimbabwe pace bowling all-rounder Neil Johnson.

The rise of Ngidi, from a humble background to becoming a part of the South African pace pack, gives hope to millions of black Africans that cricket could provide them with a livelihood. His emergence is crucial for South Africa since the Sports Ministry wants blacks to form 18% of the national team across formats in a year and cricketers of true merit such as Ngidi would enable the side to go through the transition phase without weakening it.

From the age of 13, Ngidi played provincial age-group cricket representing Kwa-Zulu Natal and kept impressing selectors. If he didn’t get a batsman out, he would strike them on the body with his lifters. Among his early role models was former South Africa paceman Andre Nel. Ngidi thought he had Nel’s action but subsequently realised that his release was different.

Continuing his natural progression, Ngidi made the South African under-19 team, where he shared the new ball with Rabada.

Considering his ability to bowl at the death — Ngidi can send down effective yorkers — he was selected in the South African Twenty20 team against Sri Lanka at the Centurion in January 2017. He made an immediate impact, being adjudged Man of the Match for his two for 12 as the Proteas won by 19 runs.

Then he suffered a career-threatening back injury, but Ngidi, displaying immense belief, returned leaner, fitter and stronger and earned a surprise call-up for the Centurion Test against India. He made his debut at his home ground count, picking up six wickets for 39 runs.

What are his strengths?

He is strong, fast and bowls with control. Ngidi has all the ingredients of a strike bowler: he has clocked speeds in excess of 150 km, seams the ball both ways, has a mean short-pitched delivery and can achieve reverse swing.

For someone so young and with loads of aggression, he bowls with maturity and can plot dismissals. Ngidi got Virat Kohli to play across and eventually trapped the Indian captain leg-before with a delivery that nipped back in the second innings at Centurion. He has an explosive front-on release and sends down what the batsmen call the ‘heavy ball’ that hits the pitch and the bat hard. He is one of those versatile fast bowlers who can perform multiple roles.

What does it mean for S. Africa?

Someone with his ability lends depth to the bowling. And with new coach Ottis Gibson keen on a four-pronged pace attack, Ngidi fits into the Proteas’ strategy going forward. The presence of the resilient Ngidi enables the South Africans to maintain the pressure on the batsmen even in the latter part of the day, in his third and fourth spells.

What does the future hold?

Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are not getting any younger and Ngidi could team up with Rabada, forming a lethal pace combination in the days ahead. He will have to guard against injuries that have tripped several pace bowling careers though. He aims high as well. Ngidi wants to emulate Rabada — his friend, mate and rival who egg each other on — and occupy the top bowling spot in the ICC rankings. Ngidi’s ambition is backed by rare ability.



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Printable version | Jun 30, 2020 11:22:55 PM |

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