Patience pays off for Nyumbu

HARARE - John Nyumbu has always been a happy man and a happy cricketer.

Nothing under the sun seems to wipe that infectious smile off his round face, even being made to wait for so long to make both his Test and international cricket debut at the age of 29.

That permanent smirk grew even wider after the out-of-form Alviro Petersen became his first ever Test scalp, on the second day of the sole Test against South Africa on Sunday, as the unfancied Zimbabweans admirably kept Test cricket’s number one team in check.

Bowling off-spin and being competitive at it are some of the skillsets Nyumbu has polished over the years in Zimbabwean domestic cricket.

During a visit to Zimbabwe in 2010 for a coaching clinic, the legendary Terry Jenner (now late), who mentored ex-Australia spin wizard Shane Warne, described Nyumbu as one of the best slow bowlers in the country.

Not even such lofty endorsement from a man recognised in the cricketing world as the “spin doctor” who revived the dying art of spin bowling would, however, nudge Zimbabwe’s selectors to finally given Nyumbu that elusive call-up.

But Nyumbu has been for the better part of a decade a respected cricketer, teammate and opponent on the Zimbabwean cricket domestic scene.

Take for insistence that in the 2008-09 Zimbabwe first-class season he was by far the best bowler in the country in all formats of the game, turning out for his home province Westerns (now Matabeleland Tuskers).

It’s almost incredible that he has been overlooked for so long, for a country with such a thin selection base, and even more so that his Test debut would probably have been delayed even further had Prosper Utseya not fallen ill before the South Africa tie.  

Nyumbu’s first-class average is 30.44 from 46 matches, with a wicket haul of 122 from those games – an ever-present figure since making his debut for Matabeleland back in 2004 alongside senior bowlers like Heath Streak, Mluleki Nkala, Chris Mpofu and Tawanda Mupariwa.

An alarming number of Nyumbu's generation have prematurely quit the game over the years due to a series of frustrations and the money issues that often rock the game here.

But Nyumbu is a fierce fighter with a competitive streak and that he has not only finally made his debut at 29, but take five wickets in an innings against the best in the world, is ample testimony to prove that. 

In Nyumbu, Zimbabwe can have a complete orthodox off-break bowler, what Graeme Swann was for England.

He gets a lot more turn and bounce, and he has shown over the years to have good consistency and could in future become a genuine wicket taker for Zimbabwe with ability to be successful on any kind of wicket.

Born on May 31, 1985 in Bulawayo, the young man learnt most of his sports at Milton Boys High in Zimbabwe’s second largest city - where he was raised in a sporting family.

His father, also called John Nyumbu, played premier league football for Zimbabwe Saints in Bulawayo in the 70s and is regarded a club legend at one of the country’s oldest football clubs.

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