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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

When Mark Boucher lifted South Africa speedster Lungi Ngidi from injury low

Mark Boucher, the ace South African wicketkeeper, won the best coach’s award in 2017 after guiding Titans to both the limited-overs titles. Young tearaway Lungi Ngidi has benefited from his guidance

cricket Updated: Jan 19, 2018 21:20 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Lungi Ngidi made an impressive debut for South Africa in the Test series against India.
Lungi Ngidi made an impressive debut for South Africa in the Test series against India.(REUTERS)

The honest chats Lungi Ngidi had behind closed doors during rehabilitation from a back injury were with Titans coach Mark Boucher. One of the fiercest competitors in the game in a great South African line-up, Boucherexpects the same intensity from his wards now that he is off to a flying start as coach.

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Ngidi was one of Boucher’s first tasks, having come back from England midway through the ‘A’ tour last summer due to a back injury that was almost career-threatening. “I think he was a little over bowled,” Boucher said in an interview on Friday. “When he came back from England, he had a stress fracture in his back. It was time for him to look at his career, see where he was going and what he had achieved,” he said.

His 6/39 wrecked the Indian second innings at Centurion and pitch-forked the 21-year-old debutant into stardom. Ngidi took seven wickets in the match, having stepped into big shoes after Dale Steyn’s injury.

READ | When India’s tormentor Lungi Ngidi almost became a rugby player

“He had opened the door for himself and had played a couple of T20 games (3) for the Proteas. And then he picked up this injury. When he came back from England he was quite down. He had to get a lot stronger. He had to get fitter, probably lose a bit of puppy fat, if you want to call it that. He was still a kid.”


The injury hit Ngidi hard. He realised he wouldn’t be able to play cricket for at least four-five months, not even train with the team. It was a psychological hit Ngidi wasn’t ready for at that age. That’s where Boucher came in.

“It wasn’t a hard chat that I had with him as coach of Titans,” he said. “It was more ‘thank you mister, you have opened a door for yourself to be an international cricketer for a long period of time. Yes, you have this injury now. It’s no use crying about it. Try to make it right. Look at your body. Look at your lifestyle. Try to get those right to become a professional cricketer’,” Boucher said, recalling his advice to the youngster.

READ | Mahendra Singh Dhoni defends India’s Test series defeat in South Africa

“Sometimes the biggest lessons you learn are probably when you are rock bottom. Not that Ngidi was rock bottom, but he was really de-motivated at that time because of his injury. My experience of going through a couple of injuries and also playing international cricket, I could speak to him from that point of view. And thankfully he took that advice and came out from the other end,” said Boucher.


Boucher, 41, the first wicketkeeper to effect 500 Test dismissals, was at the end of his South Africa career when he was forced to retire on the 2012 England tour after being struck on the eye during a warm-up game.

He signed a two-year contract extension with Titans last year, after being named Cricket South Africa’s Coach of the Year.

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Ngidi has made a brilliant first impression, but Boucher is not one to be easily swayed by success. “He has a long way to go. He can be fitter and stronger, but I think mentally he is in the right space now. There’s still a better Lungi Ngidi to come in the future.”

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 21:19 IST

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