Tuesday May 17, 2022

ICC awards

By Editorial Board
January 26, 2022

This year has begun with a bang for Pakistan cricket. The country's top cricket stars, spearheaded by sensational pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, have swept the International Cricket Council (ICC) Awards. Pakistani cricketers have won ICC accolades in the past but never like this. Shaheen, the young, tall fast bowler who has emerged as one of world cricket's most exciting players, has become the first Pakistani to win the ICC's most coveted award – Cricketer of the Year. His captain, Babar Azam, has been named ODI Cricketer of the Year. Earlier, Babar's deputy Mohammad Rizwan won the Twenty20 International Cricketer of the Year Award. And that's not all – in another first, the vastly-talented Fatima Sana won the ICC Women's Emerging Cricketer of the Year Award. This is a great achievement for Pakistan cricket and these laurels should set the tone for Pakistan cricket which faces a number of challenges later this year.

The ICC Awards are a fair reward for the accomplishments of the Pakistani trio of Shaheen, Babar and Rizwan in the Covid-affected 2021. Pakistan might not have won any major titles during the year but these three really dominated almost all teams they faced in all three formats of the game. Take Shaheen, who has been awarded the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, for example. Last year, he accumulated 78 wickets in 36 international matches at an average of 22.20. In Tests, he took 47 wickets in just nine matches at an average of 17.06. One of the high points for him came at the T20 World Cup in which he took seven wickets in six matches. Perhaps, it was the manner that he knocked out India's top order in the tournament that sealed the year's top honour for the fast bowler. In that memorable game, Shaheen took the prized scalps of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli to help Pakistan conquer India for the first time in a World Cup. Babar, meanwhile, just played six ODIs in 2021 but a total of 405 runs at an average of 67.50 including a stunning 158 against England at Edgbaston was enough for him to win the award. Rizwan has been the most prolific batsman in international cricket and richly deserved his award.

The new year couldn't have begun on a better note for Pakistan cricket. It is important for Pakistan to capitalise on such a perfect start. The challenges it faces are enormous beginning with the forthcoming Pakistan Super League. The popular T20 league begins under Covid threat. Next will be the home series against Australia, who will be visiting Pakistan for the first in almost a quarter of a century. Last year, Pakistan cricket suffered major jolts when New Zealand and England pulled out of their tours despite receiving solid security assurances. Pakistan will also be looking to build on the successes of its star trio and translate them into a title-winning triumph in this year's T20 World Cup in Australia. Things are looking set for Pakistan cricket and it is hoped that Shaheen, Babar and Rizwan will not just continue with their heroics but will also inspire their teammates to give their best and take Pakistan to No 1 position in world cricket.