Player of the Year – 2006

2006 – The year of domination. Cricket controversies dominated headlines. One side dominated another in the eagerly awaited Ashes. This was the year where batsmen dominated bowlers in a certain record breaking ODI at the Wanderers. It was also the year where three different cricketers single-handedly dominated and terrorised their respective opponents throughout the year.

Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan had a stellar year with 90 wickets at an average of 16.90. With Warne now out of the picture, he has cemented himself as the undisputed best bowler in the world.

Muralitharan savaged batting line ups in 2006 like only the great man himself can do – Pakistan, England, South Africa and New Zealand, none were a match for the mighty magician. When Murali fired, so did his team and he carried them on his shoulders to be the second most successful Test side in 2006.

Murali’s spectacular 8 for 70 against England at Trent Bridge finished as the best bowling figures for any bowler during the year. In a year where bowlers were often dominated by batsmen on unhelpful pitches, one man stood up and performed brilliantly. He took five wickets in an innings a phenomenal nine times and ten wickets in a match five times, breaking his own record of four in the process and making him the best bowler of the year without question.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting was a man on a mission in 2006. The 2005 Ashes defeat stung like loss of a loved one. After becoming the first Australian captain to give up the urn in years, he wanted revenge.

No opposition was spared as he scored centuries all over the world. Between the Ashes series he scored 8 centuries in 12 Tests, five of them coming in 2006, and South Africa and Bangladesh in particular had to bear the brunt of Ponting’s quest for redemption.

A stunning century in each innings in Sydney during his hundredth Test match began the year, and was followed by another in each innings in Durban and a matchwinning effort in Bangladesh. He saved his best for last though, grabbing the man of the series award in the Ashes.

A brilliant 196 in the first innings at Brisbane was followed by another century in Adelaide, and before England knew it the Ashes were gone. Ponting amassed 1333 runs for the year at an average of 88.86, captained Australia to 10 consecutive Test wins, and would have clinched the player of the year title, had it not been for a lesser known batsman from Pakistan who smashed the record books to pieces.

2006 was a horrible year for Pakistani cricket. Scandal after scandal hit the headlines, and the team was in severe turmoil. But if they had one thing to be proud of, that would be Mohammad Yousuf.

Mohammad Yousuf spent 2006 firmly focused at the task at hand. Taking little notice of the chaos around him, he held his head up high and amassed a huge amount of runs.

He pulverised bowlers for the entire year, taking advantage of good conditions and surviving difficult situations when they arose. Yousuf scored 1788 runs and nine centuries in 2006, shattering two of Viv Richard’s 30-year old records for runs and centuries in a year in the process. He also ended the year with five centuries from consecutive Tests, just one behind the record set by Sir Don Bradman and looking to surpass it as his side takes on South Africa early in the new year.

In quite easily the most prolific year of his career, Yousuf began with 173 against India on a road in January, and nothing could stop the man after that. A century in the second Test against India and a 97 in the third finished an incredible series.

In Pakistan’s ill-fated tour of England, where his efforts where overshadowed by the Ovalgate drama and a series loss, Yousuf scored centuries in all but the second Test, including a double century and a 192; one of three innings in the 190’s for the year.

The West Indies weren’t let off either, and Yousuf broke his national record for runs in a three Test series and scored a century in every match of the series, including two in the final one.

What caused the breakthrough from good player to the world’s finest? Perhaps it was a change in religion – from Christianity to Islam, perhaps it was a change of technique and shot selection. It’s difficult to say, but what is for sure is that it’s hard to name a more successful year for any batsman in Test history.

With Inzamam-ul-Haq approaching the end of his career, Pakistan will take heart that a different batsman that could produce such an astounding year in such circumstances, will be there to guide his side through the dark times and beyond.

Cricket Web’s Player of 2006: Mohammad Yousuf

Mohammad Yousuf – 2006

Matches: 11
Runs: 1788
Average: 99.33
50s: 3
100s: 9
HS: 202

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