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Slur recipe to Ethy’s success

Standing on the other side of the fence, Ethy Mbhalati watched the Deccan Chargers practice, perhaps trying visualise how it would have felt to be a part of one of the IPL teams.

cricket Updated: May 01, 2009 01:10 IST
G Krishnan

Standing on the other side of the fence, Ethy Mbhalati watched the Deccan Chargers practice, perhaps trying visualise how it would have felt to be a part of one of the IPL teams. Mbhalati, 27, has been the Northerns Cricket Union's (NCU), the first-class team in Centurion, key bowler since his debut seven seasons ago.

Hailing from Phalaborwa in Northern Province, the medium-pacer is also the childhood friend of fast bowler Dale Steyn, having grown up together in the same locality.

Mbhalati has a special place in Cricket South Africa's domestic T20 competition, Pro20, as he was the first to take a hattrick.

Recalling his early days, Mbhalati said, "During a club match, a bowler, after sending down a short ball, walked up to me and said, 'do you know why you are playing?' I replied, 'just bowl, what's your problem?' While walking away, he said, 'I am playing because of this (pinching his cheek to indicate the skin colour)'. I was so hurt that I left the match unfinished."

The lanky bowler, who has also made it to the South African 'A' side and is hoping to break into the national side, said the incident left him determined to play cricket and make a point for the black community.

Since then, Mbhalati is glad black and coloured cricketers are getting to play international cricket and that he did not
obey his dad's advice. "My dad was a cop and he wanted me to be a policeman or do anything else but play cricket. Today, you make a good living as a cricketer."

Mbhaalati was NCU's 'most improved cricketer of the year 2007-08' and it shows in the rapid strides he has made since that incident.

He came close to playing for the Kings XI Punjab last year. "My agent called to say a franchise was interested after some of their bowlers had left due to international commitments. I was geared up to go but he called the next day to say things hadn't worked out."

A member of the Pro20 champion side Nashua Titans, who qualified for the Champions League T20, Mbhalati was anxious to play in India. "I had packed my bags when news came that the Champions League had been cancelled due to the terror strikes."