JOHANNES Jonathan 'JJ' Smit has made history by becoming the first Namibian cricketer to sign up for an international T20 cricketing franchise.
Smit has been selected for the Vancouver Knights, where he will join global superstars like Chris Gayle, Andre Russel, Shoaib Malik, Rassie van der Dussen and Tim Southee for the second edition of the Global T20 Canada tournament, which starts in Ontario next month.
When approached on Tuesday, Smit said the news had come as a big surprise, especially since he thought he had not made the grade.
"The organisers first contacted me during the World Cricket League (WCL) Division 2 tournament in Windhoek in April, and asked if I would be interested to play. I talked to my coach, and he said it was fine because we don't have any matches then, so I filled in the application form and mailed it to them.
"I thought the draw was on 9 June, and when I didn't hear anything, I thought I hadn't made the cut. But only later did I hear the draw was on 19 June," he added.
By then, Smit had already given up hope, but last Thursday he received the good news.
"I was out with friends, and my cell phone was off. So, when I later turned it on, I received all these messages from team mates and friends congratulating me. I felt very relieved, and happy and proud, and would like to thank my team mates and everyone at Cricket Namibia, who have contributed to my success," he said.
Smit was the star player at the WCL Division 2 tournament, where he helped Namibia win the tournament, while he won the player of the series award after scoring 221 runs at an average of 55,25, and taking 13 wickets at an average of 14,53.
Those performances have now set him up for greater things, and the youthful Smit, who is still only 23 years old, said he will grab his chance with both hands.
"All I can say is that I'll just go out there and do my best. We have great batsmen and bowlers in our team, and I will try and learn as much as I can from them," he enthused.
"This means a lot to me, but also for Namibian cricket. I have received a lot of phone calls from board members congratulating me and telling me to be a good example so that more Namibians can follow in my footsteps," he added.
The tournament takes place from 25 July to 11 August, and will see cricketers from around the world competing for six teams, the Brampton Wolves, the Edmonton Royals, the Montreal Tigers, the Toronto Nationals, the Winnipeg Hawks and the Vancouver Knights.
More than 1 000 cricketers from 42 nations were on the initial list of players. Each franchise could draft 17 players, consisting of seven full member nations and 10 associate member nations, of which half had to be from the host nation, Canada.
Smit's other team mates at the Vancouver Knights include Ali Khan and Hayden Walsh Junior from the United States; Tobias Visee and Michael Rippon from The Netherlands; and Rizwan Cheema and Saad bin Zafar from Canada.
Some of the other global superstars who will be in action include Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi of the Brampton Wolves; Kane Williamson and Faf du Plessis of the Edmonton Royals; Brendon McCullum and Yuvraj Singh of the Toronto Nationals; and Dwayne Bravo and Jean-Paul 'JP' Duminy of the Winnipeg Hawks.