R ASHWIN became only the first spinner to be named as ICC Player of the Year on Thursday since the award was constituted a dozen years ago. He’s only the third bowler after Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson to win cricket’s biggest individual prize and now joins Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid as the third Indian to lift the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy. The 30-year-old was also named as 2016’s Test cricketer of the year, making him also the first spin bowler to claim the prestigious prize. And not surprisingly, Ashwin was included in the Test team of the year, the first-ever Indian bowler to make the cut. He had been the 12th man in 2015 and 2013 while the likes of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan have come within a whisker of entering the playing XI.
So basically, 2016 was Ashwin’s year. If anything, his performances have only gotten better post the voting period—September 14, 2015 to September 20, 2016—where he’s gone on to set new benchmarks in terms of bowling records. In that period, Ashwin snared 48 wickets at 15.39. But he probably also qualified as an all-rounder, considering the 336 runs he scored at 42 in those 8 Tests, including two centuries. His dominant run wasn’t limited only to a single format. This was also Ashwin’s best phase in international T20s as he pocketed 27 wickets at 15.62 apiece.
“There are a lot of people to thank for this wonderful achievement I have made. It has been a great couple of years but this year has been even more special. What is very noticeable is the way I have bowled and batted and the way I have gone about doing my business. What is more important, as far as I am concerned, is the number of people who have gone behind my success,” he was quoted as saying in the ICC press release.
Ashwin, who is suitably ranked as the No.1 bowler in the world presently, has played an integral role in India’s transformation in the Test format especially under new captain Virat Kohli, where they have won five successive series, home and away. And Ashwin made it a point to credit his success to his team.
“I’d like to dedicate this award to my family. I’d like to thank ICC and most importantly my team-mates. I’d also like to thank the support staff for our success. We’ve had a great transition ever since Mahendra Singh Dhoni hung up his boots. A young captain has taken over, we fell on the right track, and we now have a new bunch of boys,” he said.
Later in a media release, Ashwin also thanked coach Anil Kumble for ‘pushing’ him to give his best. While he finished with six five-wicket hauls, he rated his 7/83 against the West Indies in Antigua as his best performance. India won that Test by an innings and 92 runs. The ‘most satisfying moment’, according to him, was the 118 he scored in St Lucia after having walked in to bat with India on the mat at 126/5. Ashwin shared a record partnership of 213 with Wriddhiman Saha to script a 237-run win that sealed the series in the Caribbean.
“It’s a bit overwhelming and it is yet to sink in completely. At the same time I was expecting to land one but to end up with two awards was extremely special. To be bracketed alongside Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar is indeed a matter of great pride,” the release said.
Meanwhile. Quinton de Kock was rightly named the ODI player of the year—he was still a few months short of 24 when the voting period ended—making the youngest to win the prize. De Kock’s rise over the last 18 months is even more staggering considering the world-class talent that he shares the South African dressing-room with in limited-overs cricket anyway. He’s outscored everyone from AB de Villiers to Hashim Amla. Only Englishmen Joe Root and Alex Hales scored more than his 793 runs at 56.64 during the voting period but de Kock has clearly been the most influential ODI batsmen in the circuit. He also accounted for 15 dismissals to boot from behind the wicket. He has already added significantly to that tally in the three months since September this year, which has also seen his rise as a Test batsman.
Remember that name
“Carlos Brathwaite, Remember the name,” screamed Ian Bishop from the commentary box following the towering Bajan’s fourth straight six of Ben Stokes in the dramatic final of the World T20 to seal a second title for the West Indies in April at the Eden Gardens. The ICC clearly haven’t forgotten, awarding Brathwaite the T20 Performance of the Year.
Mustafizur Rahman or the Fizz as he came to be known during his sensational and batsman-mystifying breakthrough year scored the Emerging Player of the Year, becoming the first Bangladesh cricketer to win an annual ICC award. Afghanistan also got their first-ever ICC awardee with their eccentric wicket-keeper, Mohammad Shahzad, being named the Associate/Affiliate cricketer for 2016.