The COVID-19 continued to impact the world of cricket in 2021 and it was the ODI format that suffered the most due to the novel virus. The top cricketing nations including India, Australia, England and New Zealand didn’t play much 50-over cricket this year as the other two formats Tests and T20Is enjoyed domination with ICC events. ICC World Test Championship grabbed most of the attention in the first half while the rest of the year was more or less about the T20 World Cup. However, the cricket world witness some intense ODI contests between Pakistan vs South Africa, India vs Sri Lanka, West Indies vs Sri Lanka and Pakistan vs England.
Babar Azam (C): The Pakistan captain had a dream run with the bat in 2021 as he even jumped to the top of ICC ODI rankings dethroning Virat Kohli. Babar scored 405 in 6 matches this year. He enjoyed good form with the bat in England and South Africa where he scored a couple of centuries. With his recent form, Babar is now counted amongst the best batters of this era alongside Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Rohit Sharma and David Warner. Since taking over the captaincy duty, Babar has played with a sense of responsibility which has put Pakistan cricket back on track.
Janneman Malan: Before the start of this year, many didn’t know much about Janneman Malan, but now he has left a major impact on everyone’s mind to have a look at him when South Africa plays. The Proteas are going through a rejuvenation period after the retirement of their several batting legends. In search of some new talents, South Africa have found one in Malan. The 25-year-old scored 509 runs in 8 matches this year at an astonishing average of 84.83. He slammed two centuries and two half-centuries. He will be in focus next year in the ODI series against India in January which will be a big challenge for him to face a quality bowling attack.
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Paul Stirling: The Irish veteran was in form of his life in 2021 as he was the leading run-getter this year in ODIs. He scored 705 runs in 14 matches which also included three centuries. The start of the year was the peak for Stirling as he smashed his all three centuries of 2021 in January with two of them coming against Afghanistan and one versus Shardul. His form slipped a bit in the second half but he still did enough to get a place in our ODI XI.
Rassie Van der Dussen: The Proteas batter has become the most dependable batter in South Africa’s middle-order in the past couple of years. The 31-year-old continued his good form in 2021 too as he scored 342 runs in 8 matches at a sublime average of 57.00. Since the retirement of AB de Villiers, South Africa struggled in the middle order and it has been Van der Dussen who has been a guiding light for the team.
Suryakumar Yadav: The flamboyant batter’s wait for the India debut ends this year. The 31-year-old grabbed the opportunity with both ended and scored 124 runs in three matches he played this year and all of them came against Sri Lanka. He was named Man of the Series on his debut ODI series. Suryakumar adds something extraordinary to any side with his marvellous ability to play 360 degrees.
Mushfiqur Rahim: Bangladesh cricket has evolved a lot in the past few years and Mushfiqur Rahim has played a major role in that with the bat. The wicketkeeper batter has played several crucial knocks for his team and it continued in 2021. The 34-year-old scored 407 runs at an astonishing average of 58.14. Rahim didn’t play any ODI cricket in the second half of the year but he enjoyed tremendous success in the first half.
Shakib Al Hasan: The southpaw is arguably the greatest player to ever play for Bangladesh and one of the best all-rounders of this generation. With each passing year, Shakib has performed consistently well for his team. The 34-year-old scored 277 runs in 9 ODIs and continued to remain an integral part of Bangladesh batting order. The southpaw enjoyed tremendous success with the ball too with 17 wickets at an average of 17.52.
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Mitchell Starc: The Australia pace spearhead is undoubtedly one of the best white-ball bowlers in the last decade. Starc has been Australia’s leading man for the big events. The 31-year-old played only three ODIs this year but he made some major impact in that. In the three-match ODI series against West Indies, Starc grabbed all the limelight with his lethal bowling as he claimed 11 wickets including a five-wicket haul.
Dushmantha Chameera: The right-arm pacer has revived his ODI career this year with some spectacular performances. He is the leading wicket-taker in ODI in 2021 with 20 scalps in 14 matches. The lanky pacer has increased his pace which helped him in rejuvenating his career in international cricket. He took his maiden five-wicket haul this year itself against Bangladesh with an astonishing figure of 5 for 16.
Mustafizur Rahman: The Bangladesh pacer continues to impress everyone with his white-ball bowling skills. The left-armer was consistent amongst wickets in every ODI series he played this year. Mustafizur claimed 18 wickets in 10 matches at an average of 21.55. His back of the hand slower balls is still very still deceptive in the death overs where he became even more lethal.
Haris Rauf: The 28-year-old has impressed many with his raw pace this year. Despite being the third choice pacer in the Pakistan team, Rauf did extremely well for the team in white-ball cricket. In the 6 ODIs he played this year, Rauf claimed 13 wickets at an average of 24.46. Pakistan cricket is crawling back towards its golden days and Pakistan captain Babar Azam need a pacer like Rauf to be an integral part of the sporting project looking at the ICC events in the upcoming years.
Cricket Next’s ODI team of the year: Babar Azam (c), Janneman Malan, Paul Stirling, Rassie Van der Dussen, Suryakumar Yadav, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mitchell Starc, Dushmantha Chameera, Mustafizur Rahman, Haris Rauf
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