More honours for Pakistan as Shaheen named ICC cricketer of the year, Babar takes ODI gong

Published January 24, 2022
A combination photo of Pakistan captain Babar Azam (R) and pace bowler Shaheen Afridi (L). — Reuters/File
A combination photo of Pakistan captain Babar Azam (R) and pace bowler Shaheen Afridi (L). — Reuters/File

Pakistan pace bowler Shaheen Afridi was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Player of the Year on Monday for his "sizzling spells, sheer display of pace and swing and some magical moments", while captain Babar Azam was crowned as the ODI Cricketer of the Year by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for his "match-winning knocks, spell-binding stroke-play and memorable moments" in 2021.

Azam beat Bangladesh's Shakib al Hasan, South Africa's Janneman Malan and Ireland's Paul Stirling to bag the title and Shaheen was in competition with England's Joe Root, teammate Mohammad Rizwan and New Zealand's Kane Williamson.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was all praises for Azam and Afridi. He also lauded Fatima Sana and Mohammad Rizwan who were named ICC's Emerging Women's Cricketer of the Year and Men's T20I Cricketer of the Year, respectively.

"Congratulations to our cricket stars. You have made us proud," he said.

'Swing, seam, sheer pace and sizzling yorkers'

Announcing Afridi as the winner of the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for player of the year, the ICC lauded him for being "on fire throughout 2021, knocking some of the best batters over across all three formats of the game".

"He especially had a year to remember in Tests and T20Is, reaching his peak during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in UAE where he impressed one and all with his sheer speed and skills," the ICC said in a statement, recalling that Afridi took seven wickets in six matches during the tournament in Pakistan's run to the semi-final.

The ICC particularly praised Afridi for his impressive spell against India in Pakistan's first match in the tournament.

"A high-pressure encounter against India in Dubai beckoned in October. The T20 World Cup tournament opener for both sides with the history well and truly against Pakistan. But Afridi's opening burst changed it all and evoked audible gasps from one and all at the wizardry on display," the ICC said. "The numbers (3/31) simply do not do justice to what everyone witnessed from Afridi on that fateful day in Dubai."

Moreover, "he ruled the shortest format throughout the calendar year, scalping 23 wickets in 21 matches with his death bowling improving by leaps and bounds," the cricket's governing body said.

With regards to Afridi's performance in Test matches, the ICC's statement said: "After a slow start to the year in Test cricket in New Zealand, Afridi burst to life during the home series against South Africa. He continued his brilliant form throughout the rest of the year in the away tours of Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh. Overall, he claimed 47 wickets in only nine matches at a staggering average of 17.06."

"Swing, seam, sheer pace and sizzling yorkers – Shaheen Shah Afridi gave an exhibition of it all in the year 2021."

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) congratulated Afridi for his win in a Twitter post.

Earlier this month, the ICC had also included Afridi in its T20I team of the year and the PCB had given him the award for the Impactful Performance of the Year.

'Lone warrior'

In a statement announcing the award, the ICC noted that Babar was the second-highest scorer with 228 runs and was the Player of the Match in both of Pakistan's winning games in the 2-1 victory over South Africa.

"The architect of Pakistan's chase of 274 in the first ODI, Babar made a century and laid the foundation with an 82-ball 94 in the final ODI where the visitors posted 320 batting first."

The ICC particularly lauded his performance in the series against England, hailing him as the "lone warrior" for the Green Shirts in their 3-0 sweep by England, adding that he chalked up 177 runs in three games without any support from the other batters.

The cricket body said Azam's best performance was delivered in the final ODI against England where he scored close to half of Pakistan's 331 runs in the first innings.

"Walking in to bat early in the innings, Babar strung a 92-run stand with Imamul Haq to bail Pakistan out of trouble. He was cautious in his approach initially, bringing up his half-century in 72 balls. He made up for it by bringing up the next fifty runs in just 32 balls — it was his second ODI century of the year.

"With the milestone out of the way, he exploded in the death overs and almost batted through the innings, getting out in the last over for 158, his highest-ever ODI score," the ICC said.

"Babar Azam might have played only six ODIs in 2021, but he made vital contributions in the two series that Pakistan played this year," the ICC said, referring to the series played against South Africa and England.

The PCB congratulated the captain for his win.

Monday's laurel was not the only feather in the cap for the skipper. Earlier this month he was named as the captain for the ICC ODI team of the year. That announcement had come on the heels of Azam also being given the honour of captain for the ICC's T20I team of the year for his "classy best" performance in the format last year.

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