The biggest farce goes to…

2009-10-10 00:00

THE recent ICC Awards held in Johannesburg left such a sour taste in the mouth that South Africa’s national players — and most of the local media — boycotted the entire show.

Spectacularly snubbed in the shortlisted nominations, Graeme Smith and company felt they deserved better after a record-smashing year.

The awards took into consideration the period between August 2008 and August 2009, which coincided with one of the most successful periods in South Africa’s cricketing history.

Hugely successful tours of England and Australia were simply pushed aside by a peculiar ICC panel, and one wonders just what some countries have to do to get recognised.

And before this sounds too much like South African love-in, there was also a strong case for Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be recognised.

Pakistan’s exploits in the T20 World Cup were stunning, and how Umar Gul missed out after his mesmeric 5/6 will always remain a mystery.

Even Shahid Afridi’s efforts surely deserved better. Of course, such awards will always generate debate — which is no bad thing — but sometimes omissions are so glaring that it borders on bias.

Quite how Andrew Strauss’ exploits overshadowed Smith’s series-defining centuries at Lord’s, Edgbaston, Perth and Melbourne will never be known.

The England captain is a fine player, but Smith’s performances were so convincing that they changed his standing in Australia, which is no mean feat in itself.

AB de Villiers had a similarly stellar year, showing incredible temperament in England before showing his class in Australia.

The criticism he received after his “catch” at Headingley may have reduced him to rubble, but instead he stood up and turned the series with a career-defining 174.

As for his über-cool century to scoop the first Test in Perth alongside JP Duminy, that has already gone down in Proteas folklore.

Duminy himself had a case for being named Emerging Player of the Year, as no other player this year walked into a side and belonged quite as he did.

His maiden century at the MCG was so complete an innings that icons such as Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor and Tony Greig were lost for words.

He carried that form into the home series and the ODIs, so the question is why did he not even get on the shortlist? Peter Siddle won the award, and as heartily as he ran in, the Victorian came nowhere near the heights that Duminy reached.

Even Saeed Ajmal, the wily Pakistan off-spinner, made a bigger impression on bamboozled batsmen — including Aussies — over the past year.

Perhaps the most peculiar snub was that of Smith’s role as captain. He lost out to MS Dhoni for both the ODI and Test awards.

Quite what leadership Dhoni displayed over the last 12 months remains a John Grisham special, but there he is — recognised as the best leader in the game this year.

The above examples of South Africans who could have won something is merely opinion, of course, and not all could have been expecting to win anyway.

What seriously baffles one, though, is the sheer lack of acknowledgement of the aforementioned success stories, in a year where no one else touched those heights.

The overwhelming Indian flavour in what has been an underwhelming year of achievements for them makes one wonder why these were not just coined the “BCCI awards”.

It is an open secret that the ICC is heavily dependent on the Indian market, but to go as far as celebrating mediocrity is a dangerous route.

It tarnished the very spirit of the game, as there seems to be one criteria for some and another standard altogether for others.

Perhaps future awards should follow the football model, where fellow professionals and coaches cast a vote to determine the winners.

As it was, Mitchell Johnson somehow walked away with Cricketer of the Year award, despite going walkabout in the middle of the Ashes.

When he picked up his award, he seemed unsure whether to laugh or cry.

This year’s ICC Awards were a farce, and the Proteas were well within their rights to not bother turning up.

It’s just a pity that they didn’t pitch up for the Champions Trophy either.

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