SIX Pakistan players named across three teams of the year announced by the ICC is a testament to an uplifting 2021 for the national team. Skipper Babar Azam being named captain of both the One-Day International and Twenty20 International teams is also a reflection of what an inspirational leader he has been on the pitch. He led the team to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year after a troubled build-up but while Pakistan won just two out of six ODIs, Babar continued to make runs. He didn’t make it to the Test team though, despite leading Pakistan to seven victories in nine matches, with middle-order batter Fawad Alam and pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi — also part of the T20 team — and Hasan Ali being named on it. Opener and wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan was named on the T20 team after breaking the record for the most runs in a calendar year in the shortest format of the game by a country mile. Rizwan amassed 1,326 runs in the last 12 months, bettering the record of 748 by Ireland’s Paul Stirling in 2019. Babar too had a prolific year in T20s, making 939 runs, and the opening duo will be expected to help Pakistan do even better at this year’s T20 World Cup in Australia where they face arch-rivals India in their opening match.
Pakistan recorded their first-ever World Cup victory over their historical rivals at last year’s T20 extravaganza in the UAE where Shaheen was impeccable with the ball. Hasan Ali too had an impressive year in Tests while Fawad provided valuable runs as the team won the series against South Africa, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Apart from Babar, batter Fakhar Zaman was the other Pakistan cricketer in ICC’s one-day team — a format in which Pakistan needs improvement. This is a big year for Pakistan cricket with Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies all scheduled to tour. It is hoped the prominent presence of Pakistan players in ICC’s line-ups will spur the team on to more victories.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022