REWIND: Remarkable teenager’s day in cricket heaven with SA great

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With the coronavirus pandemic bringing the sporting world to a standstill, we look back at some of the top local sports stories in recent years.

In today’s installment of our Rewind series, we look back on the special meeting of inspirational, cricket-mad teenager Amandla Ntlangula and South African cricket great, Graeme Pollock.

Quintin van Jaarsveld

The past met the future on a day that Amandla Ntlangula will treasure for the rest of his life when the South Coast teenager met the great Graeme Pollock at Margate Bowling Club on Friday.

The South African cricket legend was the guest of honour at a business lunch, along with fellow former Proteas star Errol Stewart, where iconic funny man Joe Parker lent his comedic brilliance to the occasion.

Local cricket lovers were in their element, none more so than the passionate Ntlangula, a star junior cricketer at Hoërskool Suid-Natal.

A beaming Ntlangula said “it was priceless” meeting Pollock.

Ntlangula’s love of cricket has seen him overcome major obstacles off the pitch to shine on it.

The 16-year-old was born with Hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain. He’s undergone 17 operations to date, but refuses to let his condition keep him from enjoying his passion.

The determined and inspirational teenager wears a helmet throughout a game, even whilst bowling. This, however, is not why he stands out – he does so because he’s a talented all-rounder.

He played for the KwaZulu-Natal Under-16s last year and this year played for the provincial Under-17s and his school’s first team.

For a youngster described by family and friends as a walking cricket encyclopaedia, it’s no surprise that Ntlangula idolises Pollock, South Africa’s Cricketer of the 20th Century.

One of the all-time greats, Pollock played in 23 Tests for South Africa between 1963 and 1970, before his international career was cut short by the sporting boycott against the Apartheid regime.

His remarkable Test match batting average of 60.97 remains unrivalled by a South African player and is the fourth best ever after Sir Donald Bradman’s (99.94), Adam Voges’ (61.87) and Steve Smith’s (61.37) averages.

The South African legend shares a special word with an awestruck Ntlangula.

Ntlangula said “it was priceless” meeting Pollock. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” he told eHowzit.

“He actually spotted me as I was walking past. He got up, came towards me and said, ‘You must be Amandla, hi, I am Graeme Pollock.’ I stood speechless! I felt honoured and special.

“I was overwhelmed by his presence and the personal attention he gave me. Every time we took pictures together, he would wish me well and encourage me. I remember him saying, ‘Good luck for the future, work hard and I wish you all the best.’

“He is a funny guy too; he has a great sense of humour and one could tell he had great moments on and off the pitch. I could listen to him all day.”

The 16-year-old said he has special admiration for Pollock. “I have been following his history and learning about his achievements from the age of nine. For me, he is a real legend.

“He played a key role in the 1971 boycott of South African cricket, in order to ensure that young black cricketers like myself get a fair chance in sport. I have great respect for him.

“Though his active career ended at 26, he remained the greatest in world cricket, and I believe he would have done more should he have had more time on the field, like Sir Don Bradman also said.”

A handshake of mutual respect.

His current favourites are Proteas fast-bowling phenom Kagiso Rabada and captain Faf du Plessis.

“I really look up to Rabada because of what he’s achieved at such a young age. He’s a great example of what it takes to make your mark and keep performing as a young sportsman.

“Faf is such a balanced player. He is a leader and a seasoned player and someone I can learn a lot from when it comes to leadership on the field.”

Ntlangula all smiles as he meets former Proteas star Errol Stewart.

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