Pakistani robust Skipper Babar Azam has been nominated as one of four contenders in the 2021 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s ODI Player of the Year award, it was unveiled on Thursday.
A talismanic all-rounder, two dashing openers and the top-ranked batter in the 50-over format make the list of nominees for 2021 ICC Men’s ODI Player of the Year awards. Azam, Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh), Janneman Malan (South Africa) and Paul Stirling (Ireland) were the four nominees for the ICC Men’s ODI Player of the Year award.
Babar scored 405 runs in six matches at an average of 67.50 with two centuries. Babar Azam might have played only six ODIs in 2021, but he made vital contributions in the two series that they 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. He was the architect of Pakistan’s chase of 274 in the first ODI with a century and laid the foundation with an 82-ball 94 in the final ODI where the visitors posted 320 batting first.
The prolific batter was the lone warrior for Pakistan when they were swept by England 3-0. He accumulated 177 runs in three games but found no support none of the other batters managed to score more than 100 in the series. Azam’s best performance this year came in a losing cause in the final ODI against England.
With the series already lost, Pakistan were playing for pride as well as crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points in the third ODI at Birmingham. Put in to bat first, Pakistan posted 331, with Babar scoring close to 50 per cent of the team’s runs. Walking in to bat early in the innings, Babar 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 – it was his second ODI century of the year. With the milestone out of the way, he exploded in the death overs and almost batted through the innings, getting out in the last over for 158, his highest-ever ODI score.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, James Vince and Lewis Gregory stole the show with a stunning 129-run stand for the sixth wicket as England chased the total down with two overs to spare. Meanwhile, Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh), scored 277 runs in nine matches at an average of 39.57 with two fifties; 17 wickets at an average of 17.52. Shakib marked his return from a two-year ban (suspended for one year) in style with a Player of the Series-winning performance against West Indies in January 2021.
Despite last playing an ODI in July 2019, there were no signs of rust as Shakib amassed 113 runs and scalped six wickets in Bangladesh’s 3-0 sweep. Janneman Malan (South Africa) scored 509 runs in eight matches at an average of 84.83 with two centuries and two half-centuries. Having made his ODI debut in just February 2020, Malan has quickly a vital cog of South Africa’s 50-over setup.
Malan was given his first game of the year in the third ODI against Pakistan with the series tied at 1-1. Though South Africa lost the game and thus the series, Malan made an instant impact with a knock of 70. Paul Stirling (Ireland) scored 705 runs in 14 matches at an average of 79.66 with three centuries and two half-centuries. With 705 runs, Stirling finished 2021 as the highest run-scorer in ODIs this year.
Stirling made a memorable start to the New Year in January 2021 with a stunning century against UAE, though it came in a losing effort. He was Ireland’s highest run-getter in the 3-0 series loss against Afghanistan with 285 runs in three matches. Though he scored two centuries in the three games, the rest of the Ireland batting order failed to live up to its billing as Afghanistan completed a sweep in the UAE.