Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi and wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan have been nominated for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Player of the Year, the international cricket body announced on Friday.
The other two nominees are England’s test Captain Joe Root and New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson.
Moreover, skipper Babar Azam is among the four nominees for the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year. Bangladesh’s all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, South Africa’s Janneman Malan, and Ireland’s opening batsman Paul Stirling are the other nominees.
According to ICC, Shaheen Afridi took 78 wickets in 36 international matches at an average of 22.20, with best bowling figures of 6/51.
“The tall Pakistani pacer 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,” the ICC said.
He claimed seven wickets in six matches during the tournament. Moreover, the pacer ruled the shortest format of the game throughout the calendar year, scalping 23 wickets in 21 matches. It added that Shaheen in the outgoing year improved his death bowling.
Like many Pakistanis, the ICC named Afridi’s bowling against India in the T20 World Cup in Dubai as a “memorable spell”. Afridi had dismantled the Indian opening batting line up by picking up key wickets of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in the power play.
He with this unique celebration and aggression had charged the jam packed crowd. India could not recover from this, slumping to their first-ever defeat against Pakistan at a World Cup.
The ICC statement recalled Indian Captain Virat Kohli’s post-match where the skipper was all praise for the bowler.
“He put our batsmen under pressure immediately with the new ball, and he ran in with intensity and showed that he's bowling in consistent areas, so as batsmen you are forced to be a bit watchful. That spell kind of put us on the back foot immediately, and from there on to get those extra 20, 25 runs, in the end, seemed pretty difficult when you lose three wickets for 20 runs,” Kohli had said.
The wicket-keeper batsman scored 1,915 runs in 44 international matches at an average of 56.32 with two centuries and 56 dismissals.
Moreover, Rizwan ruled the roost in 2021 when it came to the shortest format of the game. “Aggregating a staggering 1,326 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 semis during the T20 World Cup,” it read.
Rizwan also upped his game in Test cricket, scoring 455 runs in 9 matches at an average of 45.50. The ICC added that he was consistent throughout the year and played a variety of roles across all formats.
The ICC termed Rizwan’s knock of 79* in only 55 deliveries in the T20 World Cup encounter against India was termed as “memorable” that led the Green Shirts to end India jinx in the mega event.
In addition to this, it recalled Pakistan batting consultant Matthew Hayden word of praise for Rizwan after the latter’s knock of 67 in a losing cause against Australia in the T20 World Cup semi-final. The wicketkeeper-batter was hailed as a ‘warrior’ by the Australian legend for his effort.
Hayden said: “Rizwan, you probably didn’t know was actually in hospital just a night ago suffering from some sort of lung condition. This is a warrior. He has been brilliant through it (the campaign) and he’s got great courage.”