It’s 30 years since Canadian Cliff Thorburn became the first non-British winner of the World Championship.
His 1980 final against Alex Higgins was a tense, gripping affair and famous in the UK for being interrupted by live BBC news coverage of the SAS storming the besieged Iranian embassy in London.
As Ted Lowe was replaced by Kate Adie, the BBC switchboard was jammed with viewers complaining that they wanted to watch the snooker.
Only one other player from outside the UK has since won the Crucible title. That was Ireland's Ken Doherty 13 years ago.
It’s a poor return for a game with pretensions to be a world sport but Neil Robertson (who I discussed earlier this week) and Ding Junhui are both playing well enough this season to end the overseas drought.
It’s good to see Ding back to his old self and it’s worth remembering that although he’s been on the tour seven years now, he is still only 23.
As for so many players, fate - or randomness if you prefer - intervened to present Ding with his chance to become a star. He began playing at the age of ten on a table in the street outside his family home.
His father invested significant time and money to get him coaching and as a 14 year-old wildcard for the 2002 China Open Ding took two frames off Mark Selby.
Two years later, with a string of top international amateur titles under his belt, he became the youngest player ever to win a match in the Wembley Masters. Ranking titles followed at the 2005 China Open and UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy.
At that point, Ding looked a great bet to supersede Stephen Hendry as youngest ever world champion but two soul destroying defeats to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the 2007 Masters final and at the Crucible a few months later severely sapped his self belief and the pressures of shouldering the hopes of the biggest nation in the world got to him.
Ding’s form and confidence went walkabout, he slipped down the rankings and his status as China’s top dog was threatened by Liang Wenbo, who reached his first major final at the Shanghai Masters last September.
Ding was at a crossroads. He could either continue to decline or come out fighting. He chose the latter and has reminded everyone this season of why he is a talent to savour, winning the UK Championship and finishing runner-up in the Grand Prix and recent China Open, where he was undone by an inspirational Mark Williams performance.
He is certainly good enough to become world champion but like any other player will need to blend his talent with belief, determination and a little bit of luck. If he won, it would be a great result for snooker, which is still far too dominated by the Brits.
Ding will be joined at the Crucible by Chinese compatriots Liang, who faces a tough first round match with O’Sullivan, and Zhang Anda, an 18 year-old unknown who has qualified in his first season.
I watched him finish off with two centuries to beat Ricky Walden in the final qualifying round and he looked unshakable despite the pressure. The Crucible, though, will provide a much greater test, not least because he is playing the most successful person ever to appear there, Stephen Hendry.
Zhang is nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’ and has practised with Ronnie O’Sullivan. He is a former runner-up in the World Under 21 Championship and winner of the Asian junior title.
That’s as much as most people know about him – and possibly more than Hendry does – and the unknown makes him a dangerous opponent.
But few players do well on their debut appearances. Even though Zhang knows little of the Crucible or its history he will soon find out and could be forgiven for freezing in the headlights.
That match – Hendry v Zhang – is one of number of mouth watering first round ties.
If the young man is still standing at the end of the 17 days it will be the greatest snooker story ever.
If Ding scoops the famous silver trophy it will be less of a surprise, more a fulfilment of a great talent.