Although the second COVD wave did once again hamper cricket for a brief period in 2021 but even stricter protocols and players’ will allowed cricket to flourish.
The ICC World Test Championship and the T20 World Cup were two major events played in 2021 along with some other high-quality bilateral cricket.
And the players too produced some exceptional performances across formats, weathering bubble fatigue and the other negative aspects of the ongoing pandemic.
TimesofIndia.com today takes a look at 5 cricket stars, across formats, who produced some exceptional cricket in the year 2021.
(All statistics in this article are till December 20, after the completion of the second Ashes Test)
Joe Root (England)
Runs, runs and more runs. That’s what England skipper Joe Root has been upto this entire year. If someone has dominated the longest format in 2021 it has been ‘run-machine’ Root. The 30-year-old has a massive 1,630 runs in 14 Tests this year (till after the second Ashes Test of the ongoing edition) and has been on a record breaking spree. The highest Test run-scorer in 2021 by a fair distance, Root currently is in fourth place on the list of all time highest run-scorers in a calendar year, behind Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf (1788 runs in 2006), West Indies’ Viv Richards (1710 runs in 1976) and South African Graeme Smith (1656 runs in 2008). Before the Boxing Day Test, which is currently on, Root was just 159 runs short of becoming the all time highest run-getter in a calendar year. He scored 50 in the first innings of the Melbourne Test, which means 109 runs or more in the England second innings and Root could achieve that feat. Root had an average of 62.69 before the Boxing Day Ashes Test and had notched up 6 hundreds and 3 fifties, prior to the ongoing Test (He scored another fifty in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test vs Australia) . Root also registered two double hundreds this year in tough sub-continent conditions, including one in his milestone 100th Test against India in Chennai. Although it has really not been a good year for Root as England captain but he has been absolutely incredible with the bat.
David Warner (Australia)
Australia’s David Warner started 2021 with scores of 5, 13, 1 and 48 against India in the Test series Down Under. Then came the IPL where he was stripped of Sunrisers Hyderabad captaincy after his team registered only a solitary win in their first six matches. Things then went further south in the second phase of IPL, when Warner was dropped as a player from the T20 franchise. Things could not have gotten any worse for the 35-year-old. But then came the T20 World Cup where Warner, like a champion, rose and completely turned everything around. The second highest run-getter in the tournament (behind Babar Azam’s 303 runs) with 289 runs, Warner emerged as the Player of the Tournament and played a huge role in Australia’s maiden T20 title win. With an average of over 48 and a strike rate of over 146, Warner decimated the opposition bowlers in the tournament and also gave a befitting reply to his critics. And in the ongoing Ashes as well, Warner has continued with his golden touch, having already scored 202 runs in just 3 innings (94, 95 and 13) in the two Tests before the Boxing Day Test.
R Ashwin (India)
The world witnessed R Ashwin 2.0 in 2021. It was a superb year for the India off-spinner as he achieved some memorable feats and landmarks with his exceptional performances in the longest format. The number 2 ranked ICC Test bowler, Ashwin currently is the highest wicket-taker in Tests this year with 52 scalps in 8 matches (before the start of the ongoing Centurion Test vs SA). With three fifers and an incredible bowling average of 16.23, Ashwin, this year was at his best and that helped him become India’s third highest wicket-taker of all time as he surpassed Harbhajan Singh’s tally of 417. The year also saw the return of the 35-year-old in the shortest format after a gap of 4 years when Ashwin was seen wearing the blue India jersey in the T20 World Cup. Ashwin, the batsman also excelled in 2021, as he accumulated 337 runs at an average of just over 28. A crucial 39 not out in Sydney along with a 106 on a rank turner in Chennai were Ashwin’s highlights with the bat in 2021 in Tests. Ashwin is currently the number 2 ranked all-rounder in the ICC Test rankings, behind Jason Holder of the West Indies.
Rohit Sharma (India)
Opener Rohit Sharma was another Indian who had a terrific run in international cricket in 2021. Runs in Australia, at home and in England, it was a breakthrough year for Rohit — the Test batsman. Although the IPL — where Rohit’s team failed to qualify for the playoffs and the T20 World Cup — saw a poor run of form from him, in the longest format, the 34-year-old stamped his authority. A total of 906 runs in 11 Tests at an average of 47.68 saw Rohit also climb up in the ICC ranking charts to No.5 in Tests. With a couple of hundreds alongside 4 half-centuries in tough Aussie, subcontinental and English conditions, Rohit excelled as an opener in Tests, helping India secure some fantastic wins. The year also saw Rohit take charge as the limited-overs captain after India’s debacle in the T20 World Cup. Rohit is missing the ongoing Test series in South Africa, but is most likely to be fit and back for the white-ball series which will follow the Tests, here he will be India’s full-time ODI captain for the first time.
Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan)
Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan was in Bradmanesque touch in 2021 in the shortest format. 313 runs in 26 T20I matches – those were his stats prior to this year. In the current year, Rizwan played a total of 29 T20I matches and amassed a mind-boggling 1,326 runs (highest in 2021) at a stupendous average of over 73. Pakistan tasted a lot of success this year in T20Is and one man that led the team from the front was Rizwan with his absolutely mesmerising batting prowess. With one hundred, 12 fifties and a strike rate of 134.89, the Pakistan opener completely turned his game around this year. In the T20 World Cup, Pakistan looked unstoppable before the semis and Rizwan was one of the major reasons for their success in the cricketing extravaganza. Rizwan’s purple patch also helped him notch up a total of 2,036 runs in T20s (international and domestic, franchise etc cricket), becoming the first batsman ever to amass 2000 runs or more in men’s T20s in a calendar year.