NO South African star, none from the West Indies and no one from Bangladesh, a country of 170 million cricket-crazy fans.
Not even one from Australia.
Somehow, Zimbabwe has TWO – a former St George’s schoolboy now playing for England, and a high-flying all-rounder in the form of his life.
Sam Curran, arguably the best Twenty20 player in the world today, and Sikandar Raza, one of the game’s finest all-rounders.
The two stars were named in the ICC T20I Team of the Year, in honour of their outstanding achievements with the bat and ball, during the period under review.
They even have the great Virat Kohli for company.
For a small nation, of just about 16 million people, where cricket isn’t even the national sport, Zimbabwe’s influence in the global game is just remarkable.
That not even one player from South Africa, the Big Brother across the Limpopo with an array of stars, including Kagiso Rabada, made the list, underlines the difficulty of breaking into this elite club of the stars who illuminated the scene.
It also underlines the special nature of the performances, which the likes of Raza and Curran displayed, for them to be considered for special recognition.
More than that, it also underlined the fact that Zimbabwe is a key member of cricket’s League of Nations and deserves its place among the game’s elite nations.
Curran was the best player at the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia last year, as he helped England power their way to glory that comes with being champions of the globe.
It’s easy to forget that his grooming, as a cricketer, started in the very same productive nurseries, in this country,
which have fed the world with some of its finest cricketers of all-time.
There is a Zimbabwe schools Facebook post of 2012 which congratulates “Sam Curran from St George’s College Under-15 after he scored 828 runs in just eight games, at an average of 103.5”.
A year earlier, he had won the player of the tournament, playing for the Zimbabwe youth team, at the EJCCA festival in South Africa.
There is also an iconic image of a young Sam, dressed in the colours of the Chevrons, in the company of his late father Kevin, at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, at the turn of the millennium.
Kevin was then the assistant coach of the Chevrons.
To try and dismiss Curran’s links to Zimbabwe, simply because he chose to play for a different senior national team, is as outrageous as suggesting Gary Ballance doesn’t qualify to play for the Chevrons.
After all, the same Ballance played for England before he decided to trace his path back to his roots and play for the Chevrons.
John Traicos is considered one of the finest Zimbabwean cricketers of all-time even though, at some stage of his career, he played for South Africa.
Colin de Grandhomme starred for New Zealand, but his roots are firmly back here – the country which gave the world Duncan Fletcher, who was one of the stars of the 1983 World Cup in England.
The country which also gave the world Andy Flower, who was at one time ranked the globe’s number one batsman, while Heath Streak was once ranked one of the top six bowlers in the game.
The star today is Raza and even the ICC acknowledges that.
“He was at the centre of all the things good that happened for Zimbabwe cricket during the year, with the all-rounder putting in one brilliant performance after another in the shortest format,” the ICC said when they revealed Raza had made the Best XI T20I team.
“Not only was he the leading scorer for Zimbabwe with 735 runs, but he also led the wicket charts for them, scalping 25 wickets, at an excellent economy rate of 6.13.
“He was the player of the tournament at the T20 World Cup Qualifier B in July and carried his form into the marquee event, winning the player of the match thrice, including in Zimbabwe’s epic win over Pakistan in Perth.”