• ‘Every team knew who Andile and I were’ – Ngidi

    Lungi Ngidi is one of many exciting South African talents who have benefited from competing in the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 Week over the past decade.

    The former KwaZulu-Natal Inland youth cricketer shared some insights on his time while representing his province and the impact of Cricket South Africa’s National Schools Weeks programmes that took place this month around the country.

    ‘I was excited,’ Ngidi recalled about hearing about his first-ever call-up to the U13 provincial side. ‘I was still playing U13B at the time, but they sent me to trials anyway. I remember my second team coach came and told me that I was selected to play for KZN U13. No-one could believe me, because of all the first team guys only one of them was selected. It was a bit confusing to everyone.’

    It was during his time as a primary school cricketer that Ngidi enjoyed the game the most, particularly when he played for the Coastal side with childhood friend and current Proteas teammate Andile Phehlukwayo.

    READ ALSO: Great start to Khaya Majola Week

    ‘Making the team with one of my best mates meant a lot to me,’ he mentioned. ‘We’ve played cricket together from like the age of 11, even before U13, we were bowling pretty quick. Every team knew who Andile and I were.

    ‘For me, that was one of the things I was proud of and it carried on throughout the years, where people would say, watch out for these guys,’ he continued.

    Despite being initially overlooked for first-team honours in primary school, Ngidi moved to Hilton College in grade eight, where he went on to switch allegiances from the Coastal side to KZN Inland. The Hilton schoolboy described the change as ‘weird’ in the beginning, as he had to face some of his old teammates and friends, but credits the move for the upward curve his cricketing career has taken ever since.

    ‘I knew I needed to invest with Inland and I actually went on to get my first U19 game at U15 after one of the coaches gave me a chance against the Griquas in a three-day game. It’s where I got to experience that intensity at a very young age. At U15 level, it was all about running in hard and bowling fast, but at U19, it was about more than that,’ he recalled.

    Lungi Ngidi … impact bowler. Photo: BCCI

    ‘I’ll never forget the first time the coach sat me down and coached me through it (my bowling). It was a random day, but I’ll always remember that moment when they decided “you know, we think this kid has got it, so let’s give him a chance”.’

    During his high school career, Ngidi’s performances for Hilton led to two appearances at the U15 national weeks before appearing in three Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 Weeks for the Inland side. Thanks to his humble background and team-first mentality, Ngidi believes these attributes helped him deal with a lot of the pressures and expectations that came with his fast progression through the age groups.

    ‘Even at that age, all I thought about was, we have to win the tournament, and for that to happen I have to pull my weight,’ he explained. ‘I knew a lot of people believed in me, I mean if you are going to play for the U19s at the age of 15 to 16, clearly they see something in you. But I also didn’t want to let it get to my head, because I knew just as quickly as you can be successful you can fail.’

    With plenty of promising cricketers having taken part in high-octane, competitive action across different cities in this year’s CSA Schools Weeks, Ngidi emphasised the importance of having fun at this level.

    ‘At U13, 15, 17 and U19 for me, is actually the perfect level where you can go out there and just play, have fun and not think about stats or anything,’ he added. ‘At that age, you put so much pressure on yourself because everyone wants to play for the SA U19s and higher, but they need to remember to have fun now during this stage of their careers because it gets harder later,’ Ngidi concluded.

    Photo: Getty Images

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    Simon Lewis