LONDON: Pakistan star fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi was awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC cricketer of the Year on Monday for his “sizzling spells, sheer display of pace and swing and some magical moments in last year”, while skipper Babar Azam was crowned as the ODI Cricketer of the Year for his “match-winning knocks, spell-binding stroke-play and memorable moments” in 2021.
Babar beat Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hasan, South Africa’s Janneman Malan and Ireland’s Paul Stirling to bag the title. Shaheen was in competition with England’s Test captain Joe Root, teammate Mohammad Rizwan and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.
Shaheen took 78 wickets in 36 internationals across different formats, with best bowling figures of 6-51 in a Test match against the West Indies.
The fast bowler claimed 47 wickets in only nine Tests at an impressive average of 17.06 and took seven wickets in six matches during Pakistan’s run to the semi-final of the Twenty20 World Cup.
ICC appreciated Shaheen for his outstanding display throughout 2021 knocking some of the best batters in 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 Shaheen took seven wickets in six matches during the tournament in Pakistan’s run to the semi-final.
The ICC also praised Shaheen for his magical 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.
“In 2021 our team performed really well and we won some very good matches,” the 21-year-old said.
“I had many good performances including five-fors in Tests but the most memorable one for me would be the one we won against India (he took three wickets against them at the T20 World Cup),” he added.
“It was a historical match and matches with India draw a big audience.” This was the third consecutive honour for Babar as ICC had earlier picked his as the captain for ODI Team of the year and T20 Team of the year.
The skipper thanked fans, family, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the ICC, and his team for supporting and boosting his morale.
Babar said he believes his best knock in the year was against England at Edgbaston, which was also his career-best. “I was actually struggling there, but that knock gave me a lot of confidence,” he said.
Babar played only six ODIs in 2021, but he made vital contributions to the two series that Pakistan played this year. He was the second-highest run-scorer with 228 runs and was the Player of the Match in both of Pakistan’s wins in the 2-1 series victory against 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.
Fatima Sana won the emerging cricketer of the year award while Muhammad Rizwan was declared the T20I cricketer of the year.
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