South African cricket supporters might be hard-pressed to find an answer to the question as to who Neo Mlumbi is, even if they were allowed to phone a friend. But don’t despair. The answer will be on the tip of the tongue of most Cape Cobras supporters soon. Yes, his fame can spread fast as he attractively establishes his foot print with the blade as a member of the Western Province cricket team.
Mlumbi (21) has played in five first-class games, averaging 14.50 with his 47 against Easterns his finest contribution. He has produced glimpses of greatness the past two years.
The first time Clinton du Preez, amateur cricket manager of the Western Province Cricket Association, watched Mlumbi, was two years ago in a Township final between Langa and Mandalay at PPC Newlands.
Neo previously represented WP in the Youth “B” age group teams and was a member of the Mandalay CC.
“I liked the way he stroked the ball during that match, and went up to him afterwards and spoke to him,” Du Preez, who is an astute talent spotter, said. He was invited to trial at the WP provincial academy. The coaches enjoyed the player and added him to the squad for the 2016/17 season.
“During the pre-season, he represented the Western Province Cricket Academy against the Western Province senior team and struck a century which gave him and the coaches a lot of confidence,” reflected Du Preez.
“At the Western Province Academy he showed glimpses of good form and made his debut for the Western Province senior provincial team and made a score of 47.
Recently he participated at the national Colts week and was selected for the South African Colts team that participated in the CSA Future Cup.
“He is a very flexible player, who shows much skill in all areas with the bat around the crease and strikes the ball crisply. The upcoming winter requires that he makes the hard yards with his coaches and this will enhance his preparation for the ensuing season” he said.
“It would be far-fetched for me to say that Neo is the next Temba Bavuma, but I believe he can follow in his foot-steps,” Du Preez said when comparing Mlumbi to the South African middle-order batsmen who hammered his maiden test century in front of an ecstatic PPC Newlands crowd in January 2016.
“I discussed his future goals with him when meeting him this past week and he said his vision is to establish himself in the Cape Cobras side, possibly advance and hopefully get into the South Africa A squad,” Du Preez said.
If Mlumbi can continue the impressive upward curve that saw him step into the Western Provincial team the past season, the public will soon produce the answer about his identity without a moment’s hesitation.
And the boardroom is abuzz with discussions about the 21-year old’s talent. That’s why he is one of the seven semi-professional players who have just been picked by the Western Province selection committee and the Coaches for next season.
Is he a future Bavuma? Only time will tell, but Mlumbi is determined to lift his game to new heights in 2017/2018 and create his own legacy.