BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
HE stormed on to the international cricket stage with a bang. Before long, Luke Jongwe was being touted as the next big thing in Zimbabwe.
In 22 one-day internationals (ODIs) that the 24-year-old all-rounder played for the national team between 2014 and 2016, he claimed 25 wickets, including a five-wicket haul against Afghanistan.
Jongwe’s career best bowling figures are astonishing as he took five wickets for just six runs.
He also boasts of the bowling best average among Zimbabwe’s active pace bowlers taking a wicket in 30.4 balls.
This is the same player who hit a then young Kagiso Rabada, now the world’s number one Test bowler, for four sixes at the Under-19 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) back in 2014.
But it’s been three years since the Eagles all-rounder donned the national team colours after he was expelled from camp in June 2016 for breaking the curfew on the eve of the limited-overs series against India.
And the vast potential has since remained just about that: potential.
Jongwe, who has been working on his game and discipline in the past couple of years, is back dreaming again and has vowed to become the best all-rounder in the world.
“Let me be honest with you and let me say it here: I am going to be the number one all-rounder in the world. Watch this space because it’s going happen very soon. What happened in the past doesn’t define my journey, but how I am going to finish it,” a rejuvenated Jongwe told The Sports Hub.
It was part of the plan when former national team coach Stephen Mangongo gave him his ODI debut on August 17, 2014 against South Africa in Bulawayo.
Jongwe was well on course to become at least one of the best quick bowlers in the country before disciplinary issues came to haunt him.
He has lost three valuable years in pursuit of his dream to become the best in the world, and in those three years he admits to have thoroughly missed putting on national team colours.
His absence has also been felt, considering that the national team has struggled for a dependable all-rounder.
“I miss putting those ‘reds’ for my country, I won’t lie about it. I cannot wait to be back, but at the moment I’m just focusing on what’s happening in my life, just making sure I am in a good place and the rest will eventually follow,” said the former Prince Edward student.
He added: “I have just been lying low in the past few years, but I played cricket for Tuskers and came back to join the Eagles. I have been going to England every off-season to play so I can work on myself in terms of cricket and discipline. I’m proud to say it’s been an amazing journey and I am glad I have all that sorted now,” he added.
In his bid to conquer the world in his cricket career, Jongwe says he draws inspiration from Proteas spearhead Rabada, a player he competed with at the ICC Under-19 World Cup not so long ago.
“I played with him (Rabada) at the Under-19 World Cup. I also remember getting a text message from him when I made my debut against South Africa congratulating me on my debut. I then texted him saying I can’t wait for our show again when we play each other in the national team colours because we had a crack at one another playing for the Under-19s.
“Seeing him achieve what he has achieved now is really motivating for me. It helps me realise that dreams can only be delayed and not completely shattered,” he said.
As he bids for his comeback, Jongwe has so far shown just flashes of his former self in the current domestic season for Eagles taking two wickets in two ODI matches and one in the longer version of the game.
The all-rounder is headed for England once again this off-season.
“I can officially say I have signed with Read Cricket Club for this coming season and I’m excited and can’t wait to go and enjoy the challenge that lies ahead,” he said.
He articulates his targets going forward.
“My immediate goal is to make a permanent jersey in the national team in all formats. Also to be the mainstay for my country and win them games as well as to be the best all-rounder in the country
“I also want to play in big T20 tournaments around the world, mainly the IPL, that’s the dream that stands out from the rest. And I would like to have my name on that first position on the list of all-rounders in all formats,” he said.
His absence in the national team has been attributed to his reported frosty relationship with former convenor of selectors and cricket legend Tatenda Taibu.
But Jongwe has nothing, but respect for Taibu.
“I respect Tatenda Taibu and what he achieved as a cricketer for this country. Whatever happened, people are always going to be entitled to their own opinion, that’s all I can say,” Jongwe said.