Standard Bank Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi believes he is mentally stronger after a few seasons that have been disrupted by various injuries, saying that this past year in particular, he coped well with his latest setbacks.
The 24-year-old missed South Africa’s four-match Test series against England in December and January after sustaining a hamstring injury during the Mzansi Super League (MSL) where he was turning out for the Tshwane Spartans.
Ngidi has had a tough time since making his international debut in 2017, with problems ranging from hip to abdominal and side strains to knee niggles – the list is a tough one to contend with. But he has soldiered on and claimed nine wickets in two outings when the Proteas whitewashed Australia 3-0 in their last One-Day International (ODI) Series on home soil for the 2019/20 season.
“I’d say the road back to cricket wasn’t as bad as people think,” Ngidi reflected. “I’m not shy to work hard, so it wasn’t an unfamiliar area for me and to be honest, I didn’t feel as though I was down and out.
“Like I’ve always said, every person has a different formula and I was still trying to figure mine out and going to (fitness) camp with the CoE (Cricket South Africa Centre of Excellence in January) helped me do that. I figured out that I’ve probably got to work a lot harder than then other people. It doesn’t come as naturally. So it just helped me and put me down the right path.
“I think I’ve always been pretty strong mentally, so I didn’t have any issues there,” he continued. “People always have opinions and will always speak but that doesn’t mean it’s always right. The only thing I could do is just focus on the work that I had to do and I seem to have reaped the benefits in the last few games that we had played.”
It has been a challenging home summer for South Africa overall. They lost their only Test series 3-1 to England, before the 50-over world champions drew the one-day international leg of the tour (1-1) and won their three-match Twenty20 sequence 2-1.
The Proteas also lost a T20 contest (2-1) against Australia but bounced back to beat the same opponents 3-0 in the ODIs.
“The team did very well in the end, there were a lot of steps in the right direction,” Ngidi added. “Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to be done but it was very good to see those wins… I just think you can see the other teams have had these teams for a very long time and we’ve got probably another four or five new guys that have come into the team now.
“For us it’s obviously a different phase but it’s moving in the right direction. It was good to see the wins that were happening but there’s still a bit of work to do.”
Ngidi, also praised the impact of returning fast bowling coach Charl Langeveldt. He took 25 wickets in 10 limited-over matches for the Proteas in the summer, including career-best figures of 6/58 in his last encounter against Australia.
“Having Langeveldt back has been really good for me,” he explained. “He’s been very supportive and encourages the way I think. As a bowler I feel really comfortable with executing my plans and I never fear that the bowling coach is not going to agree with my plan. He understands me and he’s been there before, he’s been in situations where you have the ball and you have to deviate from the game plan. He’s got a lot of knowledge and he himself was a very skilful bowler, he’s helped me a lot,” Ngidi concluded.