PRETORIA – Even in the giddiest of his ancestors’ daydreams, Lungi Ngidi’s final day of his debut Test could not have been scripted any better than it played out at Centurion yesterday.
He shared a spell of carnage with Kagiso Rabada, ticking off a personal bucket-list moment, and then ruthlessly applied the finishing touches to a series-clinching Test win over India.
Six of the very best he claimed, for 39 runs, before he was toasted by the proletariat and the presidential suites’ best-kept patrons alike.
At a stage, he allowed himself a giggle as he jogged down to fine-leg, the sparse but partisan crowd chanting ‘Ngidi, Ngidi, Ngidi’ as the 21-year-old got greedy and gobbled up the lion’s share of the Indian leftovers on the final day.
“It is difficult to describe. I still get goose bumps, and then remember where I am. I’m not used to it,” he told the press conference of the adulation. “It’s an honour to have people appreciate the work you do out there.”
As he finished with dignitaries, the top brass of the Defence Force stepped in to salute the latest weapon added to the country’s artillery.
And, just as he was about to head to the fines meeting in an impatient dressing-room, he was stopped by the cleaners in the suite, who have seen him grow from a shy boy from Kloof into a bustling international.
So what if their bosses saw them downing tools and embracing the moment?
It was reminiscent of a similar incident involving Rabada at last year’s Cricket South Africa awards, where he was stopped by a catering staff member who was adamant that Rabada was her ultimate sportsman.
He went over, took pictures on her cellphone, and then requested that she pose for a few selfies on his phone.
It is a growing cliché, but these young men and their antics on an elevated stage touch grown lives across SA. They inspire people way beyond the sporting spectrum, and their humility endears them to young and old, black and white.
“It’s beyond words what Pierre de Bruyn did for me,” Ngidi said of the man who plucked him from KwaZulu-Natal, and gave him a purpose in Pretoria.
Not once, not twice, but thrice De Bruyn had to venture to the KZN Midlands to convince the prospect that they could make his dreams come true at the school of excellence that is the Titans programme.
“I played hard to get for a bit, but I then thought there was something more when he kept on coming back just for me,” Ngidi blushed.
De Bruyn’s vision came to brilliant fruition on the very ground that Ngidi now calls home. Happily, he sees the Test at Centurion as a “Hello, World” moment, rather than the pinnacle.
“In the past, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I have got a formula now,” he explained of a lifestyle now based on being the best athlete he can be.
The significance of he and Rabada hoarding all the wickets that fell to bowlers in the Indian second innings was not lost amongst the press and across SA social media platforms.
But they want to be a heck of a lot more than just a fleeting, albeit historic, statistic or political soundbite.
They want to win Tests and make history with the Proteas, as part of a team that has a lot of bases covered - especially the brutal pace department.
In the process of making their own dreams come true, they are living the wildest dreams of those who came before them and didn’t even know what was possible.
Ngidi is of the Hlomuka people, oBophela, oBusane, and those ancestors would have giggled with glee at the manner in which their proud Ngidi name rang around Centurion this week.