With the Pakistan Super League draft picks finalised and the rosters ready, we take a look at Islamabad United's line-up ahead of the inaugural PSL, which kicks-off in the UAE in February 2016.
Australia captain Steve Smith has been named Cricketer of the Year by the International Cricket Council, winning the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy.
The 26-year-old becomes the fourth Australian to lift the trophy since the inception of the awards in 2004, following Ricky Ponting (2006 and 2007), Mitchell Johnson (2009 and 2014) and Michael Clarke (2013).
Smith, who succeeded Clarke as his country’s Test skipper in August, also picked up the Test Cricketer of the Year accolade. He guided Australia to a 2-0 Test series win over New Zealand last month, and they lead the ongoing series against West Indies 1-0.
He was the sixth highest run-scorer at this year’s triumphant Cricket World Cup campaign, hitting 402 runs at an average of 67, and registered 1,734 runs in 13 Tests – at an average of 82.57 – during the voting period from September 18, 2014 to September 13, 2015.
“Given that there are so many great players around the world, I’m incredibly honoured to receive these awards,” Smith said. “While team success is always my number-one motivation, awards like this are very special. I’m thrilled and very proud to receive them.”
South Africa’s one-day captain AB de Villiers was named ODI Cricketer of the Year for the second straight year. He also won the award in 2010.
“If I was to look back, the century I scored against the West Indies at the Wanderers will probably go down as the most memorable knock of the year,” De Villiers said.
“In saying that, centuries count for nothing if the team isn’t winning, so hopefully in the future I can contribute to many more Proteas wins.”
— ICC (@ICC) December 23, 2015
Meanwhile, UAE batsman Khurram Khan, who retired earlier in the year, was nammed the ICC’s Asocciate/Affiliate Cricketer of the Year.
Khurram said: “I feel honoured to be named as the ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year. To be the first UAE cricketer to win this award makes it even more special. This award is for all the UAE players I played with as well as for the Emirates Cricket Board, which gave me the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in an ICC Cricket World Cup.”
De Villiers’ team-mate and South Africa’s T20 skipper Faf du Plessis won the T20 Performance of the Year award for his 56-ball 119 against the Windies in Johannesburg in January.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who announced on Tuesday that he will retire from international cricket in February, won the Spirit of Cricket award.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) December 23, 2015
The 34-year-old, who invited De Villiers and his South Africa side to the New Zealand dressing room after a closely fought World Cup semi-final earlier this year, said: “I think the Spirit of Cricket is hugely important and I feel extremely honoured to have received the award.
“It does take buy-in from the entire team, though, and the rest of the Black Caps squad needs to be recognised for this as well.”
Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood was crowned Emerging Cricketer of the Year, while Australia women’s captain Meg Lanning was named Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year and West Indies women’s captain Stafanie Taylor won her maiden Women’s T20 Cricketer of the Year award.
Make no mistake, when Brendon McCullum packs his bat away in the loft and hangs up his gloves in February next year, international cricket will lose one of its finest players.
Not only has McCullum been at the forefront of revolutionising the game as it entered the brave new world of T20 cricket but he also conducted himself in a manner befitting cricket’s proud reputation as ‘the gentleman’s game’.
It was not always the case for the Kiwi ‘keeper who courted controversy in his formative years as a combative character on the field.
A standout example was his claiming of a catch off Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan in 2010 that didn’t sit well with the cricket community.
However, as soon as McCullum became Black Caps captain across all three formats in 2013 – and ever since that moment in 2010 – he became an exemplary figure.
As a leader with the bat and gloves, McCullum has been fierce.
His ability to tear apart the best bowling attacks in the world, regardless of situation, form or the format is truly awe inspiring.
His 6,273 runs from 99 Test matches (his 100th successive match since his debut in 2004 will be a record), 5,909 runs in 254 ODIs, 2,140 in 71 T20Is and 18 centuries highlight his status as a great of his generation.
Toss in his 488 international catches and 34 stumpings and you see he’s not a bad glovesman either.
Brendon McCullum has been good for cricket and he has enriched it. In doing so he has raised the esteem his country’s cricket is held in.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 22, 2015
And as a leader McCullum certainly led from the front, his aggressive approach to batting rubbing off on any side under his guidance that was underpinned by a respect for opposition and the sport that any fan can get on board with.
The way McCullum and his charges dealt with the tragic death of Phillip Hughes last November showed his class and he openly admitted that the series changed the way his side went about playing their cricket.
Bold, brash, full of vim and vigour, the style of McCullum’s New Zealand was exciting and took them to a World Cup final on shared soil with eventual winners Australia earlier this year.
But not only were the dashing nature of their performances catching the eye, so was their equal humility in victory and defeat.
A thrilling win over Australia in the pools – inspired by McCullum’s 54 from 24 balls – sparked wild celebrations, but only after congratulating their rivals on their part in a one-wicket win for McCullum’s men.
Equally, their humbling defeat to Australia in the final – in which McCullum dramatically failed with the bat – saw them congratulated Michael Clarke’s men with honesty.
As with everything McCullum has done over the past five years of his career, nothing was forced, nothing was fake, nothing was taken for granted.
Now, with the highest Test win ratio of any New Zealand captain (37.93), sitting second on his country’s list of all-time Test run-scorers and an equal high amount of sixes in the longest format (level with fellow big-hitting ‘keeper Adam Gilchrist), McCullum will bow out and be recognised for the exceptional player he is.
Observers will rightly laud him for his impact on the game while McCullum will remain understated, unassuming and focussed on one last Test series victory over Australia.
And it will come as no surprise if McCullum exits the international stage with a bang by blowing away the old enemy.