Former South Africa pacer Makhaya Ntini said that he used to avoid travelling in the team bus during his playing days and, quite literally, ran away from loneliness that he faced.
The issue of racism in South African cricket has been a hot topic debate, ever since pacer Lungi Ngidi asked the governing body to take a stand in the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. The youngster was questioned by former Proteas cricketers Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar among others.
But since then, many more cricketers have come out in support of Ngidi.
Now, Ntini — who was South Africa’s first black African international cricketer — said he used to feel lonely during his playing days.
“I was forever lonely at the time,” Ntini said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of loneliness, is to not have someone knocking on your door and say, let’s go for dinner. That’s loneliness. You’d watch friends calling each other and then having plans right in front of you and then you’d be skipped.
“When you walk into a breakfast room - and you’re the first one there - you’d see the next person that walks in, he will never come to sit next to you. It’s that loneliness ... we’re playing in the same team, practice at the same time, bowl to them, wear the same clothes and sing the same national anthem.”
The pacer had a stellar career, playing 101 Tests, 173 ODIs and 10 T20s for the Proteas between 1998 and 2011.
Ntini said he would give his bag to the driver of the team bus at the hotel and run to the cricket ground and repeated that when the team returned.
“I found a way and that became one of the weapons of my life whereby I would go to the driver of the bus early morning and I would give him my bag and then I’ll say to him, I’ll meet you at the ground. I then put on my running shoes and ran to the cricket ground, and then the same thing on my way back,” the 46-year-old said.
“People never understood why I was doing that and I would never say it to them, this is why I’m doing this... to avoid A,B,C. “I’m running away from that loneliness. You could see if I’m sitting at the back then the rest of them in the front,” he added.
You can watch the interview here:
Earlier this week, as many as 30 former South Africa cricketers, including Ntini, Herchelle Gibbs and Vernon Philander, had issued a statement saying racism remains a part of the game in the country.
Ngidi was criticised after he said that racism issue is “something that we need to take very seriously and like the rest of the world is doing, make the stand.”
Ngidi had also received support from the South African Cricketers’ Association and Cricket South Africa, who came out with statements in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The statement from former cricketers claimed despite three decades of cricket unity, “the views expressed from one side of the racial divide are still very much part of our lives... We see this an opportunity for CSA to be unequivocal about its position and to make sure the problem is confronted and we also invite our fellow white cricketers to join in this move to defend human dignity.”
There was no immediate response from CSA.
The statement noted criticism of Ngidi by former players, including Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn and Brian McMillan.
“We are not surprised at their comments. Given South Africa’s well-known past, black cricketers have borne the brunt of subtle and overt racist behaviour for many years, including from some colleagues.”
Prince, who played in 66 Tests, posted a Twitter thread at the weekend claiming racial transformation had been met with resistance and “there had never been any unity” in the decade he played for South Africa.
Also on Tuesday, Omphile Ramela, president of the SA Cricketers’ Association, released a letter, apparently written in his personal capacity, to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, seeking government intervention for what he claimed was the illegal appointment of eight white officials by CSA and its affiliates.
“In the last six months all eight new appointments within the executive management of cricket have all been white males,” wrote Ramela, a former franchise player who represented South Africa A.
“Transformation is a legislated policy, it is a law in South Africa... they are breaking the law and must face the consequences.”
(With AFP inputs)