Ajmal sweeps Pakistan’s inaugural cricket awards

LAHORE: Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal won all the bowling honours at Pakistan’s inaugural cricket awards ceremony, after he was controversially left off the International Cricket Council’s awards list.

Despite bagging 72 wickets in 12 Tests from August 2011 to August 2012, the 35-year-old was not included in any of the ICC shortlists when they were announced in September, sparking outrage in Pakistan at the perceived injustice.

Pakistan’s protest over the omission went unheeded, but at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) awards Saturday night Ajmal was declared best Pakistan bowler for 2012 in all three formats — Test, one-day and T20.

Ajmal, who helped Pakistan rout then world number one Test side England 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates early last year, also won the PCB’s special prize for best bowler of the year.

“To be named the best for the year from such a special group, for me this is an out of this world feeling,” he said.

Ajmal took 39 wickets in six Tests last year while his tally stood at 31 in 17 one day matches and 25 in 16 Twenty20s.

All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, captain of Pakistan’s Twenty20 team, was named player of the year.

Hafeez was prolific in all three forms of the game last year — both as batsman and bowler — with 505 runs and eight wickets in Tests, 476 runs and 13 wickets in one-dayers, and 398 runs and 10 wickets in T20s.

Nasir Jamshed was named batsman of the year in both ODIs and T20s, while the prize for the Test batsman of the year went to Azhar Ali, who scored 551 runs.

Left-arm paceman Junaid Khan was named the emerging player of the year.

The awards, which each carried a cash prize of 200,000 rupees ($2,100) and a trophy, were decided by a jury comprising of former Test captain Intikhab Alam, Pakistan’s chief selector Iqbal Qasim and veteran journalist Qamar Ahmed.

PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf said the awards were intended to motivate the players.

“The award ceremony is a new initiative of the PCB meant to recognise, acknowledge and honour Pakistan’s cricketing talent that has consistently stood out on the field of play — winning laurels for the team and the nation,” said Ashraf.