Joe Root, Kane Williamson, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen

England captain Joe Root, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson and Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan were on Friday selected for the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year award for their stellar performances across formats. The award will be given to the best performer in men’s international cricket (Test, ODI and T20I) during 2021. The winner, who lifts the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, will be announced on 24 January.

Root enjoyed a year that would go down in the pages of history books, scoring 1855 runs in 18 international matches with six centuries at an average of 58.37. However, he faced disappointment as captain as England suffered an Ashes humiliation.

His year began with a marathon innings of 228 against Sri Lanka in Galle and he only went from strength to strength.

He would follow up his exploits against Sri Lanka with a memorable innings in Chennai, a scintillating 218 against a spin attack of the highest caliber against India in the scorching heat.

Root continued his stellar form in the return leg of the Test series at home against India, scoring 564 runs in four matches with three centuries to his name.

His performances also helped him reach the summit of the ICC Test Player Rankings for batting, where he would eventually be replaced by Marnus Labuschagne.

Despite failing to convert his starts into big scores, Root remained England’s best batsman against Australia in the first three Ashes Tests.

Compared to Root, Williamson had a modest total of 693 runs in 16 international matches with one century at an average of 43.31, but the admirable Kiwis cannot be judged solely on the basis of the runs he scored.

It was also his impressive leadership that helped the Blackcaps achieve unchanged heights during the year. Nothing is more important than the ICC World Test Championship final against India in Southampton.

Williamson also played a key role with the bat in that game, scoring a crucial 49 in the first innings against a quality bowling unit in conditions that aided the fast bowlers. Chasing a target of 139, he played a crucial innings of 52 not out, before picking up the mace to take his side home.

His leadership will again be crucial during the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, with his strategy helping New Zealand reach the final.

Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman Rizwan scored 1915 runs in 44 international matches at an average of 56.32 with two centuries. He also took 56 outs behind the wicket.

Rizwan reigned in the shortest format of the game in 2021. Rizwan scored 1326 runs in just 29 matches, striking at an average of 73.66 and a strike rate of 134.89.

Apart from his exploits with the bat, he was as solid behind the stumps as ever, which played a key role in Pakistan’s semi-final access during the T20 World Cup.

Rizwan stepped up his game in Test cricket as well, scoring 455 runs in nine matches at an average of 45.50.

Swing, seam, pace and quick yorkers – Shaheen Afridi showed it all in 2021 in 36 international matches with 78 wickets at 22.20. He had the best bowling figures of 6/51, the tall Pakistani fast bowler on fire throughout 2021, toppling some of the best batsmen in all three formats of the game. He had a year to remember especially in Tests and T20Is, reaching his peak during the T20 World Cup in the UAE, where he impressed everyone with his quick pace and skills.

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He would take seven wickets in six matches during the tournament as Pakistan reached the semi-finals. He ruled the shortest format throughout the calendar year, taking 23 wickets in 21 matches and his death bowling improved rapidly.

He took 47 wickets in nine Test matches at an average of 17.06. PTI PDS PDS AH AH

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