For someone who carried the tag of a promising bowler ahead of the 50-over World Cup, Lungi Ngidi failed to deliver what was expected of him at the quadrennial event in England. The right-arm pacer’s injury was one of the many disaster stories of South Africa, whose performance at the global events continued to remain abysmal.
Ngidi had to fly home after just four games due to a hamstring injury. The Proteas, who were recovering from an injured Dale Steyn’s unavailability for their full campaign, were further depleted. “It’s the World Cup and you obviously want to play all games. But at the end of the day, it’s cricket and injuries happen. It’s not the first time I am injured. So I have learnt to deal with it,” Ngidi, who is here playing a four-day game against India ‘A’ for South Africa ‘A’, said.
The big-built pacer, who began his T20I and Test careers with man-of-the-match performances, can be effective with his good pace and bounce. But at the World Cup, trying to generate extra pace proved costly. “I pushed myself and tried to bowl a bit too fast and suffered a Grade 1 hamstring injury. It wasn’t a serious one but the management felt I needed complete rest,” said Ngidi, who has picked 41 wickets from 22 ODIs.
The five-Test old bowler has been picked for the three-match series against India starting October 2. The Proteas are in a rebuilding phase. Apart from the seasoned Vernon Philander, the pace duties rest on the young shoulders of Kagiso Rabada and Ngidi.
The 23-year-old has great memories of playing against India in January 2018. On his debut in Centurion, Ngidi rattled the Indian batting with figures of 6/39 in the second Test. His match-winning show included the wicket of the big fish, Virat Kohli. Ngidi said he is gearing up for the challenge.
“After I recovered from the injury, I got back to my routine and bowled a lot in the ‘nets’. Bowling in India in the four-day games has been good. The hot weather has been my only problem. I am in good rhythm and I want to keep it going,” he explained.
Last month, South Africa had to bid adieu to Dale Steyn – one of world cricket’s greatest — from Tests. As a bowler with many dreams, Ngidi wants to emulate the legendary pacer. “You look at him (Steyn) and you realise he is the perfect blue print for a fast bowler. The way he has gone about his career, you feel that’s the perfect way to go about it. He has been very influential in my journey. He has given a lot of advice. Just having him around is very good for us,” he said.
Hailing from a humble background, Ngidi’s rise to the top was strewn with many obstacles. His father was his biggest support as he pursued his goal of representing the country. Last year, Ngidi suffered a big loss when his father passed away.
“His demise was unfortunate and sudden. He wanted to see me play for South Africa and in the IPL. I am glad I could do it when he was alive. I have my mother for all the support. I know he is watching me from upstairs and I want to make him proud.”