Never Lundu - Zimbabwe Cricket's Bat Doctor

Sport | By Never Lundu, Bat Repair Specialist | 31 December 2016
PHOTO: © Baynham Goredema

The Beginning
I was born in Chitungwiza in 1991 and that’s where I live. I started playing cricket when I was in Grade 3 at Seke 6 Primary School. I stopped playing cricket for about 3 years when I was transferred to another school which did not play cricket, I returned to my former school and then I continued playing in Grade 6 and 7. High School I started playing cricket for the 1st Team when I was in Form 1 up to Form 4. At Seke 1, I played with Tinashe Chimbambo, the former Under 19 team player and Mashonganyika.
I was called by Regis Mutare, the coach of Churchill to play for Churchill in my last year of ‘O’ Level so moved to Churchill and finished my high school there. At Churchill I played with Dean Mazhawidza, I think he was the captain at that time, Luke Jongwe, Jaylot Gumbi, Tinotenda Mutombodzi and Jahure,. We were in the same team, and with a couple of other guys who are no longer playing cricket in Zimbabwe. They are no based in South Africa. They treated me like I was born at Churchill and it became my second home when I came from Seke 1.

Playing Career
When I was at Churchill, I was selected to play for Mashonaland Eagles B in 2008 with George Tandi, who was the coach. I played my debut against Mountaineers and my first wicket was Kelvin Kasuza. At that time, Elton Chigumbura who was the Captain for Mash Eagles First Team motivated me to further my career in cricket. I went on to play for Eagles and I think I did well until 2012 when it was stopped.
In 2006 I had started playing, club cricket at Royal Cricket Club in Chitungwiza. In the Royal Team there was Keith Dabengwa, Tawanda Mupariwa, Alois Tichana. My debut was against Takashinga where I picked up 7/11 and I was the man of the match. From there everyone wanted to play with me in their side. I am still playing for Royal Cricket Club and I am now, the Captain. I developed myself into an all rounder. We had been relegated before and we are now back in the 1st League and I am still leading the team. I would love to continue playing cricket and also motivating some youngsters. Since I have played with those experienced guys, I would love to share my experience with youngsters.

How I Started Repairing Bats
Cricket bats are very expensive so when they broke we had to improvise. I started doing bats in 2010. Then, I was doing it like a joke. In 2012, I think it was that’s when I started doing bats at a professional level. I was helping Mr. Mutusva at Seke 1 High. He was doing some repairs but the glue he was using wasn’t suitable for that. The break through came when my friend Lavert Masunda, broke his bat, when he wanted to get it repaired by Samuel Mwakayeni popularly known as ‘Mdhara Jigga’, a guy from Highfields. He had no money to get it there, so he motivated me to try to do what Mudhara Jigga did and I did that and I went on to do it successfully. Samuel Mwakayeni used to do it most of the bats and he moved to is still doing it in South Africa and is still doing that.

National Bats
When Lavert Masunda got a Gray Nicholls bat from Prosper Utseya, he had no money to get it repaired and he came with it to me and said you can do this. We need to experiment with this bat. It was a proper bat and for me, it was hard to do it but because my friend motivated me, I tried it and it worked. Lavert took it to Sports Club and everyone saw it and said, ‘Wow, who did this! and Lavert said, ‘It’s Lundu who did this’ and the people said, ‘Ah, it’s more like Mudhara Jigga! Then from there, he came back and reported that to me then that pushed me to start doing bats at a professional level. Chamunorwa Chibhabha came to the party because we were living in the same location and he gave me his bat. I am not sure which game he was going to play, I think it was against Pakistani and he said I need my bat to get repaired for this coming tour then I was shocked and; ‘what! An international bat coming to me?’ For me to repair, I was shocked. I took the bats home and then I fixed them and brought them back to Chibhabha and he was impressed with the work and he kept on entrusting me with his bats. The big turnaround came when Chamu introduced me to Hamilton Masakadza who entrusted me with his bats because he saw the job I did with Chamu’s bats. Masakadza was impressed with the work and Sikandar Raza Butt came to the party. Before the tour of New Zealand, Craig Ervine came with his bat, it was broken at the top and he said this is the bat that I want to use in tomorrow’s match but now I was under pressure that I have to get the bat done today so that it will be used tomorrow. I worked all night on it then I got it back to Craig and he was impressed. He went on to play with that bat and scored an unbeaten hundred which helped the team to get a victory in the first ODI. Craig was so happy that I repaired his bat that he was looking forward to use in the upcoming games. From there, I kept on advancing and repairing a lot of international bats and guys kept on coming from there.

International Bats
When Pakistan came to Zimbabwe, Mashud came with his bat. He sent in his manager with the bat. It had a crack on the face. I repaired it and he was so happy about it. In the 3rd ODI, Hafeez’s bat got broken on the edge and Kuda Munyedere referred him to me. I took the bat and repaired it and brought it back, he was so happy to see his bat living again; the Pakistan wicket-keeper came with his bat and I did it. It was broken on the shoulder and I repaired it and guys were very very impressed with the work. Hafeez mentioned that I need to continue doing this ‘because it is very difficult to change bats each and every tournament or series. They want their best bat, if it gets broken they need it repaired but if there is no one who can repair it there will be no option. But now, they have an option and they were very happy about it. Sri lanka also needed his service with Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga get their bats serviced.

Can You Tell When a Bat is Broken
Whenever I get to a cricket ground when people are batting, you can tell when the bat is broken. The sound itself tells you that there is something wrong with this bat but when that happens, it’s very difficult for me to go and tell a guy that your bat is broken because guys will think you are trying to make some money with them. So, I will just leave them then I know that in a couple of hours they will call and inform me that there is something wrong with my bat. I remember at one occasion, when Ryan Burl was batting at Sports Club, he broke his bat but he just checked the bat, right then I told the guys that I was sitting with that this bat is gone. Tomorrow or today before the end of the day, he is going to bring it and surely before the end of day, he brought it and the handle was gone and I replaced the handle and he was happy with it.

Replacing Handle
When I am replacing a handle, I need something like a day and a half to do that because a handle needs a bit more attention than anything else. Some other damages, I will just take even half a day then I will be through with it. Looking at this bat I got it today, the guys are in the middle of a four-day match they want to use it tomorrow, so by the end of the day, I will be done with it then will go with it tomorrow. It will be ready to use.

Beyond Repair
When you are repairing bats, there are some bats, which are beyond repair. If you are to look at the bat which Vusimusi Sibanda used in 2008, I think, when they were playing against West Indies when Kemar Roach bowled a yorker that broke his bat, there is nothing we can do about it. Sometimes we can just use the handle to put it on another bat. I advise guys that when their bats break they just need to come with it first then I will check if it is still repairable.
What don’t people know about you?
I don’t know if guys know this but when I am not doing bats , I usually go to the taxis, I drive taxis and also, something they don’t know is whenever I get a bat from even Chamu, even Hafeez, my wish will be that the bat I fix will score a hundred and that happened in the past with Ervine, Chigumbura and also Sikandar Raza’s bats. So, whenever I get a bat that’s my motto. I would love that bat to score a hundred from the first game the guy takes it from me.

Future Plans
My future plans are that in Zimbabwe there is no cricket workshop so maybe in a couple of years to come, I would love to have my own workshop where I will start to make a bat from scratch and make it happen here in Zimbabwe like in India, we have something like Meads and Gray Nicholls, GMs and here in Zimbabwe we don’t have one. So, I would love to do that in future and at the moment, I am not yet married. Maybe in a couple years to come I would love to, yeah.