Afridi leads Pakistan’s domination of ICC awards

— Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan bag ODI, T20 cricketers of year honours

DUBAI: Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi was named men’s Cricketer of the Year on Monday, combining with team mates Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan to help his country dominate the annual awards announced by the governing International Cricket Council (ICC).

England captain Joe Root won the Test Player of the Year honours to prevent a sweep of the men’s awards by Pakistan.

Captain Babar was adjudged One-Day Cricketer of the Year while his deputy Rizwan grabbed the T20 award.

A fourth Pakistan cricketer, Fatima Sana, won the Emerging Women’s Cricketer of the year award.

Known for his sizzling yorkers and an ability to swing the ball, Afridi claimed 78 wickets in 36 internationals in 2021 and was at his best at the Twenty20 World Cup even though Pakistan went out in the semi-finals.

“I got five-fors in Tests but my most memorable performance was during our victory against India in the World Cup,” the 21-year-old left-arm said.

Captain Azam earned his honour in recognition for his prolific run in 2021 wherein he amassed 405 runs in six innings at an impressive average of 67.50.

The 27-year-old 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 the chase of 274 in the first ODI, Azam made a century and laid the foundation with an 82-ball 94 in the final ODI where the visitors posted 320 batting first.

He was the lone warrior for Pakistan when they were swept by England 3-0. Azam accumulated 177 runs in three games but found no support as none of the other batters managed to score more than 100 in the series.

His best performance this year came in a losing cause in the final ODI against England.

Walking in to bat early in the innings, Azam strung a 92-run stand with Imam ul-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 — his second ODI century of the year.

A day earlier wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan was named cricketer of the year in T20 format by the body.

Rizwan last year scored 1,326 runs at an average of 73.66 in 29 matches.

The aggressive batter, who was instrumental in the green shirts’ victories, especially against India in T20 World Cup last year, also scored a century and took 24 catches behind the stumps.

On Monday, Root was rewarded for his sublime form in 2021 when he become only the third player — after Mohammad Yousuf of Pakistan and West Indies great Viv Richards — to score over 1700 runs in Test cricket in a calendar year.

“If there was one hundred that really sticks out it would probably be in Chennai against India,” Root said referring to his stellar 218 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

“With it being my 100th game it is something that will live long in the memory.”

In the women’s category, India opener Smriti Mandhana won the Cricketer of the Year award.

South Africa’s Lizelle Lee took the one-day honours, while England’s Tammy Beaumont bagged the T20 award.

South African Marais Erasmus was Umpire of the Year.

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