Former Proteas teammates Graeme Smith and Makhaya Ntini sat side-by-side in the commentary box on Saturday and praised Lungi Ngidi's efforts in promoting equality.
CAPE TOWN – There was a poignant moment during the 3TC Solidarity Cup match on Saturday when Graeme Smith joined Makhaya Ntini in the SuperSport Park commentary box.
It was obviously scripted for the former Proteas captain and his fast bowler to team up, particularly after Ntini’s revelations the previous day in a cathartic interview with SABC.
Everyone watching would have been interested to see if there was any lingering tension between the former teammates with Smith, of course, having been at the Proteas helm in 167 of the 284 matches Ntini played for South Africa across the three formats.
But in the spirit of Madiba Day, the mood was a conciliatory one with Smith opening up the conversation after the duo had earlier knelt beside each other in support of the Black Lives Movement.
“‘Mackie’, I was next to you in the build-up; I could feel the emotion coming from you,” Smith said. “That’s why we stand together,” Ntini replied. “A very important message is being put out today,” Smith said.
“It’s one of our greatest moments,” Ntini said. “Everyone can see that, as South Africans, we all stand up and plow the same furrow together. We stand together. The more we do this the more change will happen. Here’s Lungi. He was the first one to voice it, and everyone [who has since supported BLM] stood by him.”
Smith: “Rightly so. There’s no need for Ngidi to be attacked at all. I think he’s handled himself extremely well.”
The young fast bowler certainly has over the past fortnight. He may not have asked to be cast as the central figure in a racially-fuelled storm that has caused everyone involved in the game in this country to re-evaluate everything they have previously accepted, but Ngidi will forever be synonymous with promoting social transformation in South Africa.
“It is very close to my heart. It means a lot to me. I don’t believe anyone is better than another human being,” Ngidi said, speaking for the first since time since coming out in support of the Black Lives Movement a fortnight ago.
“But it was actually very scary to see too. Sometimes you don’t realise as a player how much influence you have and people you can affect in regards to what you say. Just by your words purely. To see, with everything that’s gone on, to see South Africa rally together and stand together in what we believe is wrong. It was amazing to see and heart warming for me.”
After the initial criticism levelled at Ngidi from former South African cricketers Pat Symcox, Brian McMillan, Boeta Dippenaar and Rudi Steyn, the 24-year-old has received overwhelming support from all sectors of South African society.
However, the support Ngidi treasures the most is that of his fellow Proteas, particularly after all his teammates took a knee on Saturday while wearing a Black Lives Matter armband.
“I think that just showcases what type of team we are. We work a lot on our culture and we do our best to have those open conversations and for everyone to honestly buy in. Everyone was willing to listen and learn and make their own decision,” Ngidi said.
“Nobody was forced into anything. Everything came from their hearts and it was wonderful to see because these are the guys I spend much of the year with. To have their support is wonderful for me.”