John Nyumbu and Andy Blignaut are the only Zimbabwean bowlers to take a five-for on Test debut to date.
But before Nyumbu danced in celebration after claiming South African big names for his first wickets during that one-off Test at Harare Sports Club in August 2014, he was grateful to be alive.
Nyumbu, and close mate Brian Chari, were involved in a road accident on their way to a national team camp in Harare. It could have been a different tale.
In The Oval this week Brighton Zhawi chats to Nyumbu who revealed he got his first pair of cricket boots from Pommie Mbwanga.
BZ: What does the word patience mean to you?
JN: May I please respond to that in two parts and I hope I won’t be jumping the gun to some of your next questions?
BZ: Sure mate.
JN: Patience to me means pain, heartache, ridicule, toughness and endurance which in turn produces joy. Patience means being looked down upon, feeling hopeless, almost giving up which in turn produces character.
BZ: Perhaps this mentality is the reason you became the second Zimbabwean bowler to take a five-for on Test debut?
JN: It contributed together with other nitty-gritties that life throws at you.
BZ: Tell me about the eve of the Test, how was it like? John Nyumbu playing for Zimbabwe.
JN: Well, to be honest I still didn’t believe all was happening to me until the morning. That day, still in my disbelief state, there was that thought in my mind saying you are playing.
I remember having a chat with Langton Rusere and Tino Mawoyo because I spent the better part of the afternoon with them and Langton was saying “remember what I said to you before the season started” and we just laughed it all off.
BZ: Then came the big moments, the big names … Alviro, De Villiers, Faf, Dale and JP … and the dancing, of course?
JN: That was something special. I was actually watching the highlights of that Test for the first time a couple of days ago and it gave me some goosebumps.
BZ: Dale Steyn tweeted about watching the highlights of that match as well … did you have a post-match chat with one of the South African players?
JN: Not straight after the Test but spoke after the whole tour because remember we played the ODIs in Bulawayo then the Tri-Series in Harare together with Australia.
BZ: What question have you been asked the most about your remarkable Test debut?
JN: Well, most people ask how I played and against who, then they ask who I got out and I feel a bit embarrassed to respond.
BZ: So how do you usually manage that . . . do you tell them to “Google”?
JN: Out of all the South African players, they always ask, “did you bowl at AB?” I always try and shy away from those questions, but it’s not easy.
BZ: So how is it like living with the record of a grand entrance into Test cricket but after that you have earned only two more caps and no more-wickets?
JN: To be honest, in as much as I had that “grand” entrance it taught me that those are just numbers and you have to take each game as it comes, because after that I didn’t have the best of tours in Bangladesh. Then the next Test versus New Zealand, even though I did not take a wicket I felt I bowled well on a wicket that was flat, it didn’t spin until the last day and, unfortunately, we batted last.
BZ: Soon after your Test debut, an ODI cap followed and you were part of the team that stunned the Aussies. Life was fantastic, August 2014.
JN: Very true mate. I am really grateful to God because I might not have even made it that far without Him and even more so after the accident I was involved in going to Harare for camp.
BZ: About the accident . . . what transpired? So this was even before the one-off Test?
JN: Yes it was. We had a short break during the Zim A camp prior to the Afghanistan A series. As we were returning to Harare with Brian Chari in an inter-city bus, it hit a T35 truck head-on as we were approaching Norton. The two bus drivers and the truck driver lost their lives. I had a minor cut on my arm, Brian had some internal injuries but we were happy to be alive.
BZ: Brings me to the love of your family … we see you are taking part in the ”Being a Dad Challenge”, some lockdown fun I guess?
JN: Yeah, family is very important, they are the behind-the-scenes pillars of pretty much most of it. We need to appreciate them at every given opportunity.
BZ: Raphael and Ryan … sports stars in the making?
JN: They enjoy sport I must say. Raffy bowls right-arm handed and bats left-handed, which for me is exciting. He is also a deadly striker. Ryan is still enjoying running around, Vincent not really a sport person though.
BZ: We have seen pictures showing how best friends you are with your wife, you were even together during your UK club stint … she must be a special woman.
JN: The saying goes, behind every successful man is woman and for me, Sheila, (my wife) is a true testament of that. She has been by my side in every situation, good or bad, and am so thankful to the Lord for her being in my life.
BZ: In the domestic game, you have achieved, you have over 200 First Class wickets and you are four more away from 100 List A wickets, you have won trophies with Tuskers. Is there anything that’s still motivating you?
JN: As I said, those are just numbers boss. I get motivation from loving the game of cricket, the challenges each game brings, be it club, provincial or international and also keeping the cycle going.
The cycle being, for me to be where I am and who I am, a lot of hands and minds moulded me, so whilst I am also in a position to help out I should also do my part.
BZ: Media or coaching, where would you like to head after your playing days? You seem to enjoy both.
JN: To be honest, I would like to do both.
BZ: They say you are a trash-talking bowler. Are you?
JN: I must admit that during the early years of my game I used to spit whatever I wanted (laughs), but I would like to believe I have toned down big time but my fellow Tuskers mate will say otherwise.
BZ: It will be criminal to chat with John Curtis Nyumbu and not mention football. So I will say a name and you tell a special story on that. Highlanders Football Club.
JN: Highlanders Bosso Amhlolanyama. Growing up in Mzilikazi we all wanted to don the black and white, going to Barbourfields Stadium even to just listen to the noise from outside and wait for the last 15 minutes when all the gates were opened to catch a glimpse of our heroes was just something else.
BZ: FC Platinum?
JN: Started following them when my friends Zephaniah and Joel Ngodzo and Brighton Dube joined them. Then more Bulawayo boys kept joining the club so now I support them as well.
BZ: Manchester United?
JN: The best club in the world . . .
BZ: Legends (social soccer team)
JN: Very humble bunch of former Zimbabwe footballers that I really enjoy spending time with. Grew up watching them, now playing alongside them even if it’s social soccer, but playing alongside “Chief” Justice Majabvi in midfield or playing a little one-two with Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda is priceless especially for my generation who have seen these guys in action.
BZ: Costa Nhamoinesu?
JN: (laughs) I knew that was coming. He was our left back-cum-striker at Milton High School, he was and still is so good, he would play first half of a game before going for AmaZulu practice, but still finished as the top goal scorer in our team and schools league. Humble and quiet guy.
JN: I feel bad not having mentioned my coaches and other guys who played a part in moulding me.
BZ: You can
JN: In my journey as John Nyumbu, I am very grateful to the people that moulded me to be where I am. I will always be indebted to guys like Pollock Mubobo, Jerry Sullivan, Mr Nick Nsingo, Steve Mangongo (who gave me my international break-through), Walter Chawaguta, fellow Tuskers players, past and present.
I remember got my first cricket boots from Pommie Mbangwa and bat from Mluleki Nkala and learnt a lot from them.