Dubai: Pakistan left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi on Monday was named as the ICC men’s Cricketer of the Year for 2021. At 21 years, Afridi is the youngest cricketer ever to get the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy and is the first Pakistani player to receive the honour as well. It is also the fourth individual trophy bagged by Pakistan in this edition of the ICC awards.
The tall Pakistani quick was on fire throughout 2021, knocking some of the best batters over across all three formats of the game. Afridi had a year to remember in Tests and T20Is, reaching his peak during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in UAE where he impressed one and all with his sheer speed and skills.
“I tried to produce performances for Pakistan. In 2021, our team performed really well and we won some really good matches. I always try to produce good performances for Pakistan and will continue with my efforts. There is a lot of support for others in our team. We have gelled together and feel happy when we see our team-mates doing well,” said Afridi in his acceptance speech.
He would take seven wickets in six matches during the tournament in Pakistan’s thrilling run to the semi-final. He ruled the shortest format of the game throughout the calendar year, scalping 23 wickets in 21 matches with his death bowling skills improving by leaps and bounds.
After a slow start to the year in Test cricket in New Zealand, Afridi burst to life during the home series against South Africa. He continued his brilliant form throughout the rest of the year in the away tours of Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh. Overall, he claimed 47 wickets in only nine matches at a staggering average of 17.06.
But his memorable performance of 2021 came in the 3/31 against India in their opening match of the ICC men’s T20 World Cup in Dubai. “I had many good performances, including five-fors in Tests but my most memorable performance was during our victory against India. It was a historical match and matches with India draw a big audience. Performing against India was a highlight for me in 2021. It was a great year for me and hopefully you will see good performances in 2022 too.”
Afridi’s opening burst tilted the match in Pakistan’s favour, trapping Rohit Sharma with a late in-swinger. This would be followed by the dismissal of KL Rahul, whose stumps were knocked over with another peach of a delivery. Later on, he would also get the prized scalp of Virat Kohli in the death overs. India simply could not recover from the opening shock and slumped to their first-ever defeat against Pakistan in a T20 World Cup.
Afridi got praise from all quarters for his spell, including from Indian captain Virat Kohli in the post-match chat. “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.”