Former South Africa pacer Makhaya Ntini on Friday recalled being “forever lonely” during his time in the national team as he opened up about the racism he faced, accusing his then teammates of making him feel isolated.
The 43-year-old former speedster, who claimed 390 Test and 266 ODI wickets and played alongside stalwarts such as Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener among others, spoke about his experience in the wake of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement which gathered momentum following the death of African-American George Floyd.
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“I was forever lonely at the time,” Ntini, among the 30 former South Africa cricketers to come out in support of the BLM movement, said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation .
“Nobody knocked on my door to go for dinner. Teammates used to make plans right in front of me, skipping me out. When walking into the breakfast room, nobody came to sit with me.
“We wear the same uniform and sing the same national anthem, but I had to overcome (the isolation),” he added.
Ntini said he used to avoid travelling in the team bus and preferred running to the stadium to deal with the isolation. “I used to see the driver of the team bus, give him my bag, and then I would run to the cricket ground. I did the same thing on the way back, I just ran back instead,” he said.
“People never understood why I did that, I never told them what I was trying to avoid. It became my best thing, I didn’t have to face any of it.
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“I was running away from the loneliness. If I was sitting at the back of the bus, they would go and sit at the front. Whenever we won, it was joyful — but I was the first to be blamed whenever we lost.”
Ntini said his son Thando too has faced racism.
“My son Thando has also experienced this, he was almost stopped from going on an U19 camp (on false pretenses),” he said.
On Tuesday, Ntini, along with 30 former cricketers, signed a statement in support of the BLM movement, saying racism remains part of the game in the country.
In the statement, the former cricketers also threw their weight behind current South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi, who was recently criticised by ex-Proteas like Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenar for supporting the BLM campaign.
Former South Africa captain and star batsman Faf du Plessis on Friday expressed his solidarity with the fight against racism that has gripped the world, saying “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter.”
Former cricketer Ashwell Prince, who also led South Africa in a few matches, had earlier called the country’s system “broken“.
South African Cricketers’ Association and Cricket South Africa have also come out with statements in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement.