Durban: Makhaya Ntini, the first and the most popular black cricketer to represent South Africa, urged young pacer Lonwabo Tsotsobe to step into his shoes.
It was as much about emotion and show business as it was about cricket when Ntini brought curtains down on his illustrious international career at the end of the one-off Twenty20 match between India and South Africa here last night.
“Fill these shoes for us as black people everywhere in the country and in the world,” Ntini said referring to Tsotsobe, the only coloured cricketer in the current South African squad.
Emotion gripped the 50,000 fans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, when Ntini walked off for the final time.
“Hello Durban. I would like to take this opportunity to say to each and every one of you, thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support,” an emotional Ntini said.
Ntini said he would not forget “the way people roared when I bowled the last ball.”
“My boys, I always salute you,” Ntini told his team-mates.
Also honoured along with Ntini was iconic Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, the only active cricketer who was involved when South Africa returned to international cricket after a hiatus of 21 years due to apartheid in November 1991 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Tendulkar heaped rich praise on Ntini for his contributions to South African cricket.
“He was a fierce competitor and a true champion because you knew that at the end of the day Makhaya would still be running in hard and trying to get you out,” Tendukar said.
Before the match, special caps were presented to members of the South African team, led by Clive Rice, who made the historic 1991 tour.
The match was followed by a concert with a line-up which included Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.
Ntini donned the national cap in 101 Tests, picking up 390 wickets at an average of 28.82. In one-day internationals, he finished with 266 wickets from 173 matches at an impressive average of 24.65.