New Delhi, Jan 5: Veteran India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Australia’s left-handed batting pair of Usman Khawaja and Travis Head, and England’s premier batter Joe Root have made it to the shortlist for ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year 2023 award.
Ashwin had previously won the award in 2016 and was nominated for this honour in 2021. In 2023, Ashwin picked 41 wickets in seven matches, despite missing out on selection for India in the World Test Championship final against Australia at The Oval in June.
In the 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series on home soil, Ashwin's impressive performance saw him claim 25 wickets in four matches to help India retain the coveted title. In the process, he also became the highest wicket-taker for India against Australia in Test cricket with 114 wickets, surpassing Anil Kumble’s 111 scalps.
His exceptional all-round effort, which included making 86 runs with the bat in a low-scoring series, earned him the well-deserved Player of the Series award, which he shared with Ravindra Jadeja.
After the WTC 2023 final, Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler, was drafted back into the team for the first game against West Indies and he showed exactly what India had missed out on with 12 wickets followed by a fifty and taking three wickets in the next match.
On the other hand, Travis Head enjoyed his most prolific year in Test cricket since making his debut in 2018, making 919 runs in 12 matches, including a match-winning 163 in Australia’s first innings in the WTC final.
He started off with a half-century in the New Year Test match against South Africa. Even in the challenging Border-Gavaskar series, where many Australian batters struggled, Head stood out as one of the only three visiting players to amass over 200 runs, after being shockingly dropped for the opening Test in Nagpur.
He took that form over to the World Test Championship Final, where his blistering century took the game away from India and gave Australia the coveted mace. Head’s dream run in England continued with a fifty each in the first three Ashes matches and went on to make vital contributions in the remaining games in the year, including in the ongoing series against Pakistan.
His teammate Khawaja’s stocks continued to rise in 2023, following up on a stellar comeback year in 2022 to earn a second consecutive Test Cricketer of the Year nomination. He began 2023 by striking his career-best score of 195 not out against South Africa.
Khawaja later shone against India in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, finishing as the top run-getter among both teams with 333 runs in four matches, which included a century and two fifties. After a lean WTC final performance, Khawaja bounced back by being the highest run-getter in the Ashes with 496 runs.
The left-handed star finished the year on a high with three scores of 40+ against Pakistan. With a grand total of 1210 runs, Khawaja stood alone as the sole player to breach the four-figure mark for Test runs in the challenging and rewarding year of 2023.
Like Ashwin, Root is eyeing his second ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year honour, having won the award previously in 2021. He began the year in style, with three fifty-plus scores in the two-match series against New Zealand.
This included a brilliant 153 not out and 95 in the second game which played out to be one of the most thrilling Test matches of the year, that New Zealand won by one run. Root followed it up with another half-century in the one-off Test against Ireland and a stellar Ashes series.
He began the five-match series against Australia with an unbeaten 118 in the opening Test at Edgbaston. After a couple of lean returns, Root finished the series on a high with a half-century each in the last two Tests, helping England draw the series 2-2. Root also proved to be very handy with the ball, scalping eight wickets in 2023. (IANS)