Today, the ICC announced that Michael Clarke will be awarded the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for winning the Cricketer of the Year award. He has been phenomenal with the bat, in Test cricket during the consideration period – from August 2012 to August 2013, especially considering he was leading a depleted Australian side, with the retirement of many experienced players, and a side that had lost that winning feeling. However, the argument against Clarke is that, as good as he has been in test cricket, his ODI record is hardly anything to boast about, and he does not play T20 cricket.
There have been others like Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn who have been terrific across the three formats and probably deserve the award more than Clarke. Here is a consolidated list of 5 players who arguably deserved the top honour more than, or as much as Clarke.
1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Dhoni’s prowess as a top Limited-Overs cricketer was never in doubt, but his very place in the Test side was being questioned, let alone the captaincy of it. But, Dhoni let his bat do the talking, and very symbolically, with his performances, has shut the critics up for the moment. After the series was lost to England, in which Dhoni made a couple of important half-centuries that prevented India from facing further embarrassment, Dhoni made an emphatic statement in the first Test against the Aussies at his adopted home ground in Chennai. With adoring fans roaring on, the Super King powered his way to a brilliant counter-attacking double hundred, as he set the tone for India to win the series 4-0. Dhoni has always been consistent in ODI cricket, as a career average of 50+ suggests. This year has been no different for Dhoni. The final of the tri-series in the Caribbean just asserted Dhoni’s prowess as an ODI batsman as he stretched the game until the very end, and then exploded against Shaminda Eranga to give India victory.
The fact that India had lost none of the series they’d played in 2013 till the ODI series in South Africa just proved that Dhoni’s performances were mostly on successful occasions for the team as well.
2. Dale Steyn
This year probably saw Dale Steyn finally living up to his reputation in the shorter formats of the game. Very often, Steyn used to try too many things and got hit in the limited overs games. But, this year, he realized that, if he sticks to his guns, there is no better pacer in world cricket than him. 41 wickets in 7 tests in 2013 is a record that anyone would be proud of. And it is the type of wickets that Steyn gets which strikes you. Very few of his wickets are “cheap” wickets. Most of them are got by beautiful swing bowling at a fair pace as well.
With 27 wickets in 13 ODIs, Steyn has finally come to terms with being a wicket-taker in ODI. Add to that, an economy rate in that period of 3.65. Yes, an economy rate LESS THAN FOUR. With these new rules in place, that is nothing short of fantastic.
Steyn’s performances have catapulted South Africa to No.1 in test cricket, and being part of a winning team always accentuates the performance of an individual.
3. Hashim Amla
The Mighty Hash as he is known has had yet another phenomenal year at the top of South Africa’s batting order in both tests and ODIs. An average of 73.75 in tests means he has been as consistent as he has always been, and he has not left the ODIs behind by any stretch of an imagination. Although Quinton de Kock has captivated the audience in the past few months, Amla has been the one steady presence in South Africa’s ODI top order through the year. 838 runs in 20 innings with two centuries is no measly return. Add to this, his reliable fielding and catching, he’s an absolute prized asset for any team to have.
Although Sangakkara has only played 2 tests in the year 2013, he has scored a huge 441 runs in those two games. Also, he has been nothing short of sensational in both ODIs and T20s. As this piece is being written, he is taking apart the Pakistan bowlers in Dubai, with his style of elegance and finesse. Sangakkara is not the typical power hitter who id often the ODI success story, but he is a complete cricketer capable of adjusting to various conditions and various situations.
But, what tilts the balance in Sangakkara’s side, is his phenomenal ODI record in 2013. He has scored a staggering 1033 runs in just 20 innings at an average of over 73. Two innings stand out for Sangakkara. One, a fantastic century that took Sri Lanka home against England, in a big chase at The Oval in the Champion Trophy, and the other, a fabulous 169 against South Africa in the humid climes of Colombo that set Sri Lanka on their way to a big win, both in the match, and the series.
If Sri Lanka has been a force in Limited overs cricket this year, bulk of the credit has to go to Sangakkara and his brilliant batting.
The presence of three Proteas in this list probably gives you an idea of how dominant they’ve been, more so in Test cricket. But, with de Villiers, ask yourself a question. How can someone average 82 in tests, 50+ in ODIs over a year, and yet be overlooked for the award?
That is what has happened with de Villiers. The captaincy of the ODI side, seems to have been more a catalyst to de Villiers’s performances than a burden. As a crucial part of their middle order, de Villiers has delivered almost whenever he has been called upon, and we can expect him to continue this trend for a while. But, in 2013, on hindsight, he probably deserved that award more than Clarke.