England captain Joe Root, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson and the Pakistan duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan were on Friday short-listed for the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year Award for their stellar performances across formats. The award will be given to the best overall performer in men’s international cricket (Tests, ODIs and T20Is) during 2021. The winner, who will lift the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, will be announced on January 24.
Root enjoyed a year that will go down in the pages of the history books, scoring 1855 runs in 18 international matches at an average of 58.37 with six centuries. He though endured disappointment as captain with England suffering Ashes humiliation.
His year began with a marathon knock in 228 against Sri Lanka in Galle and he has only gone from strength to strength.
He would follow up his exploits against Sri Lanka with a memorable knock in Chennai, a brilliant 218 against India in the sweltering heat against a spin attack of the highest calibre.
Root continued his sublime form against India in the return leg of the Test series at home, aggregating 564 runs in four matches with three centuries to his name.
His performance also helped him reach the summit of the ICC Test Player Rankings for batting, where he would be eventually displaced by Marnus Labuschagne.
Despite failing to convert his starts into big scores, Root continued being England’s best batter against Australia in the first three Ashes Tests.
As compared to Root, Williamson’s 693 runs in 16 internationals at an average of 43.31 with one century was a modest total but the admirable Kiwi cannot only be judged on the basis of the runs he scored.
It was also his influential leadership that helped the Blackcaps scale unchartered heights during the year. None more so important than the ICC World Test Championship Final against India in Southampton.
Williamson played a crucial role in that game with the bat as well, scoring a vital 49 in the first innings against a quality bowling unit in conditions assisting the seamers. He followed it up with a crucial 52 not out in the run chase of 139, taking his side home before lifting the mace.
His leadership would again be vital during the T20 World Cup in UAE and Oman, with his tactical nous helping New Zealand reach the final.
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Rizwan had a stunning year with 1915 runs in 44 internationals at an average of 56.32 with two centuries. He also had 56 dismissals behind the wickets.
Rizwan ruled the roost in 2021 when it came to the shortest format of the game. Aggregating a staggering 1326 runs in only 29 matches, Rizwan struck at an average of 73.66 and a strike-rate of 134.89.
Apart from his exploits with the bat, he was as solid as ever behind the stumps, playing a key role in Pakistan’s run to the semifinals during the T20 World Cup.
Rizwan also upped his game in Test cricket, scoring 455 runs in nine matches at an average of 45.50.
Swing, seam, sheer pace and sizzling yorkers — Shaheen Afridi gave an exhibition of it all in 2021 with 78 wickets in 36 internationals at an average of 22.20. He had his best bowling figures of 6/51 The tall Pakistani fast bowler was 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 absolute peak during the T20 World Cup in UAE where he impressed one and all with his sheer speed and skills.
He would scalp seven wickets in six matches during the tournament in Pakistan’s run to the semi-final. He ruled the shortest format throughout the calendar year, scalping 23 wickets in 21 matches with his death bowling improving by leaps and bounds.
He scalped 47 wickets in nine Tests at a staggering average of 17.06. PTI PDS PDS AH AH
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