2020 Cricketer of the Year: Ben Stokes and Babar Azam among those with the strongest case

It has been a year like no other, with the pandemic wreaking havoc on sporting calendars around the globe. Like other sports, cricket has faced the brunt of the pandemic too and has even seen the 2020 T20I World Cup in Australia postponed....

2020 Cricketer of the Year: Ben Stokes and Babar Azam among those with the strongest case
It has been a year like no other, with the pandemic wreaking havoc on sporting calendars around the globe. Like other sports, cricket has faced the brunt of the pandemic too and has even seen the 2020 T20I World Cup in Australia postponed. The picture though, is changing as the year draws to a close as international cricket picks up steam once again. While the stop-start nature of the year has caused a reduction in the number of fixtures, there has been time for several players to deliver standout performances. The candidates for the 2020 Player of the Year will be many, and we have managed to narrow down the nominees to five players before putting them to a vote among our Instagram followers. MARNUS LABUSCHAGNE (AUSTRALIA) Role: Right-hand bat Innings: 14 Runs: 747 Average: 53.35 100/50: 2/4 Highest: 215 vs New Zealand (Test) The Australian has taken 2019 by storm with a sensational campaign that saw him finish the calendar year as the leading run-scorer in the Test format. He started off 2020 on an even stronger note as he struck a maiden Test double ton against New Zealand in Sydney, before following it up with a fifty in the same clash. That Test remains the only red-ball appearance so far for Labuschagne this year, although he will get an opportunity to wear the whites once more against India shortly. Away from the five-day format, the right-hand prodigy has shown he can translate those talents to the 50-over game as well. He registered his maiden ODI ton earlier in the year in South Africa, and has added two more fifties to his resume. This hype train does not look like stopping anytime soon and Labuschagne is now primed to resume his red-ball heroics in Australia’s big home summer against India. KYLE JAMIESON (NEW ZEALAND) Role: Right-arm quick Innings: 12 Wickets: 25 Average: 17.08 Strike-rate: 32.8 Best: 5-34 vs West Indies (Test) If 2019 was Labuschagne’s year to make a giant impression as a rookie, then 2020 has belonged to New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson. In a year which has seen him make his debut in all three formats for country, Jamieson has shown he is ready to carry the torch for New Zealand for a long time to come. The tall fast bowler’s domineering height makes his bounce an awkward one to handle for batsmen, and he has a lethal fuller delivery as well to mix things up nicely. These attributes have seen the Kiwi turn into an excellent fourth wheel for a pace attack composed of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. Having picked up a maiden Test five-for at the start of the year against India, Jamieson has enhanced his star power by repeating those exploits against the West Indies recently. The pacer turns 26 soon and has ample time to become New Zealand’s future mainstay with the ball. Pakistan’s batsmen will certainly have a job on their hands in the upcoming series if they are to contain Jamieson’s rapid rise. STUART BROAD (ENGLAND) Role: Right-arm fast Innings: 15 Wickets: 38 Average: 14.76 Strike-rate: 38.3 Best: 6-31 vs West Indies (Test) England have enjoyed a busier Test schedule compared to others, and it is Stuart Broad who has been at the heart of their winning displays for the most part. The veteran seamer has looked rejuvenated once again and was at his magnificent best in England’s home summer clashes against the West Indies and Pakistan. Broad was consistently among the wickets for England at home, with his six-wicket haul in Manchester against the West Indies being the standout display. Over the course of the year, the 34-year-old also broke into the 500 Test wickets club and entered an exclusive space only occupied by three other fast bowlers in history. As his colleague James Anderson reclines into his twilight years, Broad is showing that there is still plenty left in the tank for the Nottingham-born Test specialist. BABAR AZAM (PAKISTAN) Role: Right-hand bat Innings: 15 Runs: 835 Average: 69.58 100/50: 2/7 Highest: 143 vs Bangladesh (Test) The Pakistan ace ended the previous year by dispelling doubts over his overseas Test credentials by putting together a commanding display in the tour of Australia. Returning to the home comforts of Pakistan in 2020, Babar feasted on conditions he knew all too well by plundering runs against Bangladesh. His 143 against ‘The Tigers’ in Rawalpindi was the fifth ton of his Test career, and he is now entering the category of the most elite all-format batsmen in the world. There were more promising signs of his growing maturity in Pakistan’s tour of England later in the year, with the right-hander notching up two half-centuries in the Test series loss. That he is just starting to enter his peak years as a batsman is a scary proposition for Pakistan’s opponents. Having made merry in the limited-overs clashes at home against Zimbabwe recently, Babar will now look to gear up for a tough challenge that awaits him in New Zealand. The sky’s the limit for the Pakistan skipper at the moment, and it will come as no surprise if he conquers the Kiwis as well. BEN STOKES (ENGLAND) Role: All-rounder Bat Innings: 17 Runs: 767 Average: 51.13 100/50: 2/2 Highest: 176 vs West Indies (Test) Bowl Innings: 16 Wickets: 25 Average: 18.84 Best: 4-49 vs West Indies (Test) Last year was all about Ben Stokes after his heroics at the World Cup and subsequent Ashes series catapulting him to the ICC Player of the Year. It will be hard for Stokes to top anything he did last year, but he did come mighty close with one of the great all-round displays in 2020. In what has been a tough year for the England star personally, he has shown that 2019 was not an outlier in terms of his performances. He was in brilliant touch at the start of the year in South Africa, helping England script a commendable overseas Test series win. He was even better in the summer when the West Indies came calling to England, starring for the hosts with both bat and ball. In any calendar year, Stokes’ batting displays would be enough to make him a candidate for the Player of the Year. The fact that he has outperformed even the likes of Pat Cummins with the ball in the same year makes him the favourite to win a second successive title from the ICC.