The professional career of Rodney Ontong was cruelly cut short by a car crash in August 1988 when the former Glamorgan captain badly injured his knee whilst travelling en route from Essex to Northamptonshire. The gifted all-rounder had been one of the leading batsmen off-spinners on the county circuit, and the previous summer had come very close to selection for the Test side. Sadly, this was not to be, and as a result of his injuries in this horrific accident, the combative batsman and astute off-spinner was forced into retirement from county cricket.
Born in South Africa, Ontong had initially travelled to the United Kingdom in the early 1970`s for football trials with Chelsea. He failed to secure a place with the football club, but he was a very talented cricketer as well, and whilst in the London area, his immense promise in club cricket secured him a place on the M.C.C. groundstaff. He continued to develop his skills at Lord`s under the watchful eye of M.C.C. coach Len Muncer, and the ex-Glamorgan stalwart duly recommended the youngster to his former county.
Ontong made his first-class debut against the 1975 Australians at Swansea and spent a couple of years qualifying as an English player. He subsequently won a regular place in the side in 1977. At that time, he bowled at a brisk medium pace, and together with his stylish strokeplay, Ontong`s all-round skills proved invaluable to the Welsh county, as they enjoyed their best ever season in one-day cricket in reaching the Gillette Cup final.
During the early 1980`s, Ontong moved up the batting order to the number three berth, and in 1983 he also changed bowling styles from pace to spin. He proved to be a big spinner of the ball, and claimed a total of 74 wickets in 1984, followed by 64 victims in 1985. It proved to be a vintage season for Ontong as he also produced one of the best ever all-round performances for Glamorgan, with 130 and figures of 13/106 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. By this time Ontong had become Glamorgan captain, having taken over from Mike Selvey mid-way through the 1984 season following the former England seamer`s departure from the club.
Ontong`s name was also being mentioned as a potential England all-rounder. He had previously turned down the opportunity of playing for the South African national side, in the hope of playing for his adopted country. In 1987 he was sounded out about his availability for the World Cup, but failed to make the final squad. Sadly, higher honours never came his way as his fine county career came to an abrupt end in August 1988. Since retiring, Ontong has coached in South Africa for Northern Transvaal and he is currently the Director of Coaching for Gauteng.
(Article: Copyright © 2000 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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