THE Chennai Super Kings were about to hit the nets when a sudden bout of hearty laughter in one corner caught everyone by surprise. Makhya Ntini, had a group of onlookers in a fit of laughter with his latest antics. Leaving them in splits, he turned his attention to his teammates, keeping them smiling with witty comments and gestures right through.
That's Ntini, a complete antithesis of what a fast bowler supposedly should be — brooding, serious and aggressive. Tell him that his playful image is unbecoming of a fast bowler, and he lets out another hearty laugh. This infectious cheer, however, hasn't stemmed from the prosperous, secure and satisfying life he now leads, but from the adversities he had faced in his early life.
“That's the way I grew up. There were seven of us in the family, and hence sharing and enjoying with each other was inevitable. Coming from a poor and rural background, there was hardly anything for us to do except to find something we could have fun with and just be happy,” said Ntini.
And lessons learnt the hard way have stuck even in days of prosperity. “I am an out-and-out enjoy-life kind of person. I never put myself under any pressure and take life in my stride. I thoroughly enjoy doing whatever I do and if things still don't work out, I simply tell myself that it wasn't to be, not allowing it to tamper with my peace of mind and way of life,” said Ntini.
But doesn't he sometimes feel the need to show some aggression? “A game is played to have fun, you don't have to be too serious about it. I see myself as a bouncing tiger in the team whose job is to feed energy to others,” said Ntini. And he does it to perfection, on and off the field. For instance, he rarely turns away a fan seeking an autograph or a photograph. No wonder, he was rated the most popular sportsperson in South Africa not long ago.
Does the thought of someone taking offence to his pranks, especially in an IPL environment which brings together people from different nations and cultures, cross Ntini's mind? “Not at all. I fool around to bring a smile to everyone's face, not to run someone down. I may be joking around, but I know how to respect the sensibilities of others and don't cross a line. Aren't we all adults after all?” he asked, and rushed towards another group of unsuspecting spectators, perhaps with a prank up his sleeve.