“When God says it’s your time, it is indeed your time. I believe it was just my time to get the opportunity to do what I could for my country and that’s all I can say.”
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
These words came from Zimbabwe cricket’s man of the moment, John Nyumbu, in the wake of his spellbinding rise to become a vital cog in the national team.
Nyumbu made his Test and One Day International debut last month at a ripe age of 29.
Many will remember him as the man who treated the world to some fancy footwork as he danced to celebrate that unforgettable wound inflicted on AB de Villiers in his solitary Test match against South Africa.
As Nyumbu revels in his new- found prominence, not many people know that he is a man who almost gave up the dream to don the national team colours having made a decision to quit the game hardly a year ago.
Nyumbu shared the remarkable story of his cricket career with Standardsport on the sidelines of a national practice session recently.
“To be honest, this past season I had no plans to play cricket. After a long time pursuing the dream, reality was finally hitting me that I had a family to feed and so I had to look for another source of income but a friend, Langton Rusere convinced me to give it one more try. I listened to him and had a great season of cricket.
“Then came the call up to the Zim A side, the Test debut and the ODI Series. It’s quite humbling when I look back at what has happened not only in the past two months but the past year of my career,” he said.
The Matabeleland Tuskers off spinner kicked off his international Test debut against a top ranked South Africa side last month and became only the second Zimbabwean after Andy Blignaut to claim a five wicket haul on debut.
His 5 for 157 figures included the wickets of world class batters in de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Alviro Peterson, JP Duminy as well as that of number one bowler Dayle Steyn.
Growing up in the dusty, hallowed streets of Mzilikazi in Bulawayo, it would stand to reason that Nyumbu had a football related dream but fate had other ideas.
“When I was young I always dreamt of representing my country in football as well as playing for Highlanders. But I did not have a first and third school term sport so some friends invited me to join cricket.
“Initially I was a mere slip fielder where I used to take some great catches but one day playing for the Milton High School Under-16s against Midlands Christian College I was asked to bowl.
“With our opponents needing 10 runs with 5 wickets in hand, I took the five wickets and won the game for my school and that’s when my spin bowling career started,” recalled the father of two boys, Vincent and Rafael.
Making his first class debut in 2004, the former Cecil John Rhodes Primary School student endured a lot of trying and frustrating times in his career.
At one time he was part of the Tuskers team that had Keegan Meth, Glen Querl, Chris Mpofu, Tawanda Mpariwa, Keith Dabengwa and naturally it was him who had to sit out the games.
He however thanked his wife of three years Sheila for always providing a shoulder to cry on when chips were down as well as his family which kept supporting and encouraging him.
Past being past, Nyumbu is currently in national team camp as he prepares for his first ever international tour as Zimbabwe visits the subcontinent country, Bangladesh, for three Tests and five ODI matches.
Nyumbu reckons maturity has helped him to settle easily in the national team set up while producing consistently solid performances ever since he got the call-up.
In a World Cup season such as we are in, Nyumbu’s name could be among the first on Stephen Mangongo’s line up for the global showpiece set for Australia and New Zealand early next year.