KARACHI: The International Cricket Council (ICC) started recognising individual and team performances in recent years by setting up the ICC Awards three years after establishing the ICC Rankings in 2001— the criteria and equal weightage for home and away Tests have already made the rankings contentious, but in this piece we will keep our focus on the awards alone.
The awards were handed out with great fanfare in some glittering ceremonies held in London (2004), Sydney (2005), Mumbai (2006), Johannesburg (2007 and 2009), Dubai (2008), Bangalore (2010), London (2011) and Colombo (2012).
Since 2012, the ceremonies have faded away with the awards seemingly struggling for recognition due to the steep cost of holding lavish ceremonies besides the increasingly cramped cricket schedule leaving little room for glam and glitter.
From pre-recorded TV shows, the ICC has come down to simply announcing the awards through its digital mediums and the ‘fatigue’ of the selection panel is apparent by the series of blunders or to put it politely, oversights in the 2016 edition announced Thursday.
Even in their heyday, the awards rarely satisfied the critics and fans and as the product withers away, the latest announcements are full of puzzling decisions.
What is perhaps even more astounding is that for a mere announcement, the governing body took three additional months from the end of the qualifying period, in the technology driven present age and the increasing penetration of social media platforms, the fans and even the media simply don’t have the time and energy to recap performances that are already confined to the back of their minds.
Alastair Cook has been announced captain of the ICC Test team of the year a couple of days after losing four Tests on the bounce in India and a Test in Bangladesh, while Virat Kohli who averaged 655 runs at 109.16 in the five match series doesn’t find a place in the team!
While the individual awards were handed out to deserving recipients like Ravichandran Ashwin, Mustafizur Rehman, Quinton de Kock etc, the selections of the Test and ODI teams drew flak all around.
ICC ODI team of the year, Jadeja over Imad Wasim
Amid some strange calls, the ICC ODI team of the year made an incredibly contentious call by including Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who played a mere five games in the qualifying period September 14 2015 to September 20 2016.
The left-armer hardly lit the sky with his numbers; a total of 45 runs and three wickets was all that he gathered. Contrastingly, his counterpart from across the Wagah, Imad Wasim in the same period scored 215 runs at an average of 107.5 as he was dismissed a mere two times. His bowling returns were equally impressive, 13 wickets with a five-for against Ireland in Dublin.
How the selection panel — Kumar Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid and Gary Kirsten — overlooked Wasim is mystifying to all who believe that the award winners are chosen on merit alone and after in-depth statistical analysis of performances from all ten ODI teams rather than focus on a chosen few.
ICC Test team of the year, Steyn over Wagner and Woakes
Another diabolical call by the selection panel is the selection of the presently injured South African pacer Dale Steyn ahead of New Zealand’s Neil Wagner and England’s Chris Woakes. Steyn played a mere four Tests in the qualifying period collecting only 14 wickets.
His only sizeable contribution was an eight-wicket haul against New Zealand; on the other hand Black Caps’ left-armer Wagner had a prolific run with some heady and match-winning spells.
Wagner tallied 36 wickets in seven games, England’s Woakes enjoyed a prosperous summer at home which provided the bulk of his 36 wickets, overall he featured in eight Test for his team yet like Wagner, Steyn tipped him to the eleven seemingly on reputation alone!
Australian Adam Voges and Sri Lankan Rangana Herath’s selection is also irksome considering their impact only on a series or two and largely on their home grounds.
Pakistan’s Yasir Shah who took 34 wickets in the six Tests, played a leading role in all four wins for his team against England both home and away didn’t make the cut.
The pedigree of the selection panel is surely unquestionable but their picks have left a sour taste. One hopes the ICC spends more effort in ensuring credibility for the awards if they are keen on establishing them as the pinnacle of cricketing achievement.
As the parent body of the sport, they owe it to both the players and the passionate followers of the game.