DUBAI: The ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year award is staying in Pakistan.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Thursday bagged the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, following speedster Shaheen Shah Afridi in becoming only the second cricketer from the country to win the prestigious award given to the best player across all formats by the International Cricket Council.
Just hours before the ICC made the announcement, Babar was also named the One-day International Player of the Year. In doing so, Babar retained his crown as the world’s best player in the one-day format — the first player to do so after Virat Kohli, who won the award in 2017 and 2018.
The elegant batter’s individual success is down to the total of 2598 that he scored across formats in 2022, while as captain, he led Pakistan to the finals of the T20 Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup. Under his captaincy, Pakistan also registered eight consecutive ODI wins during the year.
Although Pakistan’s show in Tests was poor in 2022 — with the side losing five of their nine matches — Babar piled up 1184 runs at an average of 69.64, which included eight centuries.
In the 50-over format, Babar was relentless. The right-hander smashed 679 runs at 84.87, registering three tons during the year, two of which were consecutive ones against Australia in Lahore.
Pakistan played the major chunk of their cricket at home in 2022, with the likes of Australia, England and New Zealand touring the country during the year and Babar said he cherished the opportunity to score against them.
“Every match I played for Pakistan has been special and memorable, but the most satisfying and accomplishing aspect for me was to compete and perform in front of my home fans against Australia, England and New Zealand’s touring sides,” he said in a statement.
“I feel humbled to have been voted as winner of the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy and join the ranks of some of the most iconic and respected names who have previously won the biggest and most prestigious individual award in our great sport.
“I continue to look up to these players as well as champions of the past for inspiration, motivation and improvement,” he added.
After agonising losses in the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup finals, Babar said he wanted to lead the team all the way to trophies this year — with the 50-over World Cup to be played in India — with his performances.
“Of course, reaching the finals of two major tournaments in the United Arab Emirates and Australia were also some of the highlights for me and my team, and we hope to do better this year, which is going to be equally demanding but highly rewarding,” said the 27-year-old, who was named Pakistan skipper in 2020.
“As cricket is a team sport, this recognition and achievement would not have been possible without the overwhelming support of my family, team, fans and the institution, to all of whom I am greatly indebted and thankful.”
Earlier, Babar was also named the captain of the ICC Men’s ODI Team of the Year.
The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s interim management committee Najam Sethi congratulated Babar on his achievement.
“Babar Azam’s performances and his success are the result of his hard work and commitment and he is a beacon for all the young cricketers in Pakistan,” he said.
Sethi also congratulated Pakistan wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan and pacer Haris Rauf for being named in the ICC Men’s T20 Team of the Year and Nida Dar for winning a place in the ICC Women’s T20 Team of the Year.
“I’m sure these awards will push the Pakistan sides to perform even better this year.” said the 74-year-old.
England Test captain Ben Stokes was named the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year for leading the side to nine Test wins in 10 games in 2022 while scoring 870 runs and bagging 26 wickets during the year.
“This is down to the England players and management for what has been such a positive year in Test cricket,” Stokes said. “We have played some incredible cricket with series wins against New Zealand, South Africa, a significant performance against India and a historic victory in Pakistan.”
Stokes’ compatriot Nat Sciver won the coveted Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as the Women’s Cricketer of the Year.
The winners were selected following a global vote conducted among an independent panel of prominent media representatives – the ICC Voting Academy – whose votes were combined with those of cricket fans from around the world registered to the global cricket governing body’s website.
Winners in the individual categories were based on overall performances and achievements throughout the calendar year.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2023