SINCE taking an Eaglesvale High School student named Friday Kasteni to the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, Zimbabwe's cricket selectors seem to have found it trendy to ring a surprise every time they pick a squad.
Late last year it was Johnson Marumisa for the World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa. This time, on the team's maiden North American tour for the Twenty20 Canada Cup, Cephas Zhuwawo, a 23-year-old right-handed batsman and spin bowler, is the surprise inclusion.
A 15-men squad was named this week.
The Zimbabweans will proceed to Kenya for a triangular series, but Zhuwawo, a hard-hitting top-order batsman, was picked as a Twenty20 specialist for the Canada tournament.
To those who don't follow domestic cricket, Zhuwawo is an unknown quantity. But because of his background he has had to work harder for selection than his peers. He grew up in Harare's high-density suburb of Glen View, went to school there and does not play for one of the established clubs.
But "Mayor", as Zhuwawo is known in cricketing circles, has been waiting in the wings for some time. He is an aggressive player on the club scene and an impressive newcomer at first-class level. He was nurtured at the Waterfalls-based Old Malverians club, and has made domestic first-class appearances for Mashonaland and Northerns in the last three years. He caught the attention of selectors with his all-round performances last year to be included in the Zimbabwe A side when Sri Lanka A toured in 2007. Recently Zhuwawo batted sufficiently well enough against the touring Pakistan Cricket Academy in the one-day matches to bolster his growing promise.
"I think he's got potential," said Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya of Zhuwawo. "He can time the ball. He hits cleanly and far. I think he needs everyone's support."
With his more than useful leg-breaks Zhuwawo has the aptitude to become a genuine all-rounder that many observers actually reckon he is a bowler who can bat, other than a batsman who can bowl.
He has an average of 16.62 from 12 A matches, his highest score being an unbeaten 42.
Meanwhile Zhuwawo is the only member of the squad who has previously not played for the national side, although pace bowler Taurai Muzarabani and batsman/wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva only played in South Africa's MTN domestic championships last season.
Zim squad for Canada & Kenya tours:
Prosper Utseya (captain), Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tatenda Taibu, Chamu Chibhabha, Ray Price, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Keith Dabengwa, Regis Chakabva, Taurai Muzarabani, Chris Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Timycen Maruma, Graeme Cremer, Cephas Zhuwawo.