CricketEurope Player of the Year Poll
The 2009 ICC Associate Player of the Year award, won by William Porterfield, was somewhat controversial. In the final short list of four, Ireland had just one player despite all their success. In the long list, there was no recognition for the phenomonal success of Afghanistan, who climbed from WCL Division 4 to ODI status in 2009.
The make-up of the panel, and their knowledge of associate and affiliate cricket, was also called into question. There were only two associate representatives on the panel - former Dutch international Roland Lefebvre and journalist Jon Coates - with the remainder being from the Test playing world, including some journalists and former players that have been rather dismissive of associate cricket.
CricketEurope has decided to revive its own player of the year award. In contrast with the ICC panel, our ten person panel is made up entirely of people involved in and supportive of associate cricket, including two former Irish and Scottish international players.
Each panel member selected their own top ten, and these selections have been collated into an overall top ten. CricketEurope's readers will have the final say on who wins the Player of the Year award.
It is safe to say that CricketEurope's panel were divided on the issue! Only one player received a place in every top ten, and 30 players (from nine countries) were chosen in all.
Two players from the ICC's four player shortlist are not even in our top ten, and two members of their 14 player longlist didn't even make it into our top thirty!
We now present our top ten. So as not to sway you too much, they are presented in alphabetical order.
Hameed Hasan (Afghanistan)
ODIs: 2 matches, 4 wickets at 19.00
Of Afghanistan's players who have helped bring them up from Division 5 of the World Cricket League all the way to ODI status, two stand out above all others. The all-rounder position is filled by Mohammad Nabi, whom we shall come to later, but their best bowler has been Hammed Hasan.
The 23 year old from Negharar made his debut for Afghanistan in 2006, and soon found himself a regular in the side. Impressing the MCC in Afghanistan's win over that famous old club in India that year, he found himself on the young cricketers scheme along with Nabi and played for the MCC against the European XI.
He was a key part of Afghanistan's WCL 4 win, where he was the tournament's leading wicket taker with 16 wickets at the average of 9.31 - an average that would have been considered incredible had Mohammad Nabi not taken 14 wickets at just 5.35. He took nine wickets at 19 as the Afghanistan juggernaut rolled on through WCL 3.
He finally outshone Nabiin the bowling department in the World Cup Qualifier, taking 18 wickets at 22.22 and finishing second in the wicket takers list. Afghanistan didn't quite fulfil their dream of World Cup qualification, but they did become the first affiliate member to gain ODI status, and Hasan was the pick of the bowlers in their first ODI against Scotland, taking 3/33 to lead his team to victory.
In Afghanistan's first Intercontinental Cup game he took four wickets against Zimbabwe in Mutare. He followed this with five wickets in their win over the Netherlands in the same competition and a wicket in the first ODI against the Netherlands.
David Hemp (Bermuda)
ODIs: 2 matches, 183 runs at 183.00
If ever a man summed up the phrase "diamond in the rough" it is David Hemp. Bermuda were undoubtedly the worst of the six associates with ODI status from 2006-2009, and it was no surprise when they failed in the World Cup Qualifier. But head and shoulders above the rest of the team was Hemp.
After the conclusion of the 2008 county season he headed to Florida with Bermuda to play in the Americas Championship. He scored 140 runs with just one dismissal in the tournament as Bermuda finished as runners-up to the USA.
The highlight for Hemp in 2009 was certainly the World Cup Qualifier. He started slowly, but showed signs of what was to come with an unbeaten 76 to secure a win over Denmark, Bermuda's only win of the first round. He followed this with what are likely to be his final two ODIs. He scored an unbeaten 102 against Kenya and 81 against the Netherlands. He then really hit top gear in the play-off stage. Against Oman he scored 124 not out from 125 balls to secure an eight wicket win and then smashed 170 not out from 141 balls - the second highest score in ICC Trophy history - in the eight wicket win over Uganda in the eighth place play-off. He was the tournament's highest run scorer with 557 runs at the phenomonal average of 185.67.
When it came time to find a new captain for Bermuda, Hemp was the obvious choice, though his tenure didn't get off to a good start as Bermuda lost to Uganda in the Intercontinental Shield. He is being touted as a possible Bermuda coach in the not too distant future, and his commitment to cricket in Bermuda is admirable. He must wish he was born in one of the more successful associates.
Alexei Kervezee (Netherlands)
ODIs: 5 matches, 161 runs at 32.20
This young Dutch player very much came of age in 2009 as he began to make his way into the Worcestershire line-up, and cemented himself in the Dutch national side. Sadly there was a controversy towards the end of the 2009 season as he opted to carry on playing for Worcestershire instead of going to Canada with the Dutch Under-19 team for the Under 19 World Cup Qualifier.
He was the third highest run scorer in the World Cup Qualifier in South Africa, scoring 461 runs at an average of 51.22 with a top score of 121 not out against Denmark, thereby helping his team to third place and qualification for their fourth World Cup.
He hardly had time to settle back in England before he was making his County Championship debut for Worcestershire against Yorkshire at Headingley. He was very much thrown into the deep end, opening the batting against Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan but didn't last long. The next month he was back in the Worcestershire first XI for their defeat by Ireland in the Friends Provident Trophy.
Like all Dutch players, the highlight of his season would have been the win over England in the World Twenty20, though he would have been personally disappointed to have been dismissed for just one in the first over of the Dutch run chase. He followed this with a second County Championship game, scoring 66 in the second innings against Durham.
Returning to international duty, he made his highest ODI score of 75 against Canada, before staring for the Dutch Under 19 team in the European Championship, scoring 474 runs in five matches at an average of 158. As July and August wound on, he started to play for Worcestershire more often, and he could well be a key player for them in 2010, which could have a negative impact on his availability for the Netherlands.
Neil McCallum (Scotland)
ODIs: 9 matches, 284 runs at 56.80
Neil McCallum has become pretty much an ever present fixture in the Scotland side in the last few years, and August 2008-August 2009 was no exception. He played in the World Twenty20 qualifier in August 2008 in which Scotland finished third to qualify for the 2009 World Twenty20, though their participation was only confirmed once Zimbabwe pulled out.
At the World Cup Qualifier in South Africa he was the fourth highest run scorer, scoring 452 runs at an average of 56.50, and it has been in the one-day game that he has played the best for Scotland recently. In the award qualifying period, he played nine ODIs, scoring 284 runs at an average of 56.80.
Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)
ODIs: 2 matches, 66 runs at 33.00
Along with Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Nabi has been a key part of Afghanistan's rise to ODI status. An all-rounder capable of scoring quickly and turning a game with his off-spin, he was the first Afghani to play first-class cricket when he played for the MCC in 2007, and plays for Pakistan Customs in the Pakistani domestic set-up.
In the semi-final of the ACC Trophy Elite against Hong Kong, he went for just ten runs from his ten overs, but that wasn't enough to prevent defeat for his team. He won the game with the bat in the third place play-off against Nepal, scoring 55 from 56 balls to lead his team to a three wicket win. Moving on to WCL Division 4, he took 14 wickets at the barely believable average of 5.36, and in Division 3 he took 11 wickets at 11.82 as Afghanistan secured qualification for the World Cup Qualifier.
He wasn't as effective in the World Cup Qualifier, taking 10 wickets at 35.20, but was economical, going at 3.89 runs an over. Since the WCQ, he has scored his maiden first-class century, 102 against Zimbabwe. In his two Intercontinental Cup matches so far, he has taken ten wickets at 22.40, proving that he is just as effective in the longer form of the game as in limited overs.
Kevin O'Brien (Ireland)
ODIs: 10 matches, 242 runs at 40.33
Kevin O'Brien has taken his game to the next level in the last year, attracting the attention of Nottinghamshire and becoming the latest Irish player to ply his trade on the county circuit.
The personal highlight was undoubtedly his unbeaten 171 against Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup, his maiden first-class century. He was also Ireland's top scorer in the rain affected ODI tri-series against Kenya and Zimbabwe, scoring 38 against Zimbabwe and 83 against Kenya.
He was in fine form at the start of 2009 as Ireland won the World Cup Qualifier in South Africa, scoring 333 runs at an average of 166.50 with a top score of 101 not out against Oman. He continued this form into Ireland's Friends Provident Trophy campaign where he was his team's top run scorer with 220 runs at 44.00 with his top score being 94 against Hampshire. Once that campaign was over, he began playing for Nottinghamshire, making his debut in the Twenty20 Cup against Durham, taking two wickets.
There was a return to Irish international duty pretty quickly with the World Twenty20. He was a key part in Ireland's win over Bangladesh that secured qualification for the Super 8 as he smashed 39 from just 17 balls. Returning to Nottinghamshire, he has found himself a regular in their limited overs side, but is yet to play in the County Championship.
Niall O'Brien (Ireland)
ODIs: 7 matches, 141 runs at 28.20
From one O'Brien brother to another. In recent years, Niall O'Brien has shown himself to be the best wicket-keeper at associate level, and Ireland must be worried that he'll become the next player to switch his allegiance to the other side of the Irish Sea. He has become one of the first names on the Northamptonshire team sheet in recent years, meaning that his availability for Ireland has suffered somewhat.
In the Intercontinental Cup matches at the end of 2008 he was in top form, scoring 135 against Kenya and an unbeaten 119 against Namibia to lead Ireland to victory in the final.
He scored 263 runs at an average of 52.60 in the World Cup Qualifier, also making twelve catches and four stumpings behind the stumps. He has continued to play for Northamptonshire in 2009, and brought himself to the attention of a wider audience when he top scored with 40 against Bangladesh as Ireland reached the Super 8 of the World Twenty20. His gritty determination whilst battling through an injury brought him wide admiration, and there are a few murmurings of the possibility of an IPL contract.
William Porterfield (Ireland)
ODIs: 12 matches, 572 runs at 52.00
Ireland's captain won the ICC award, and it is no surprise that he's nominated for CricketEurope's award. He has come on in leaps and bounds in the last two years, and the pressure of captaincy has only improved his game. In all major cricket during the qualifying period, he scored 2556 runs at an average of 32.77.
He secured his place in the Gloucestershire side at the end of the 2008 season, and when it was was over, he led Ireland to their third consecutive Intercontinental Cup title.
Another tournament followed at the start of 2009, as he led Ireland to the World Cup Qualifier title. Porterfield was outscored in the tournament only by David Hemp, making 515 runs at 57.22. Throughout the 2009 season he has been an important part of the Gloucestershire team, and captained the side on two occasions during the Twenty20 Cup. International commitments have been met as often as possible, with the World Twenty20 tournament the highlight as Ireland beat Bangladesh to make the Super 8 stage.
Having cemented his place as one of the first names on the Gloucestershire team sheet, Ireland will be hoping that he remains available for international duty whenever possible, and that he doesn't throw in his lot with England. Adrian Birrell has described Porterfield as his favourite player of all those he has coached, and he has no doubt shown what promise Birrell saw in him and more.
Edgar Schiferli (Netherlands)
ODIs: 7 matches, 17 wickets at 15.06
Whilst he wasn't the most famous name in a Dutch squad that included Dirk Nannes and Ryan ten Doeschate, it was perhaps appropriate that Edgar Schiferli hit the winning runs in the Netherlands' famous win over England at Lord's in the World Twenty20, as he has been one of the (almost) unsung heros of the Dutch side in recent years.
At the World Cup Qualifier in April 2009, he was the leading wicket-taker with 24 wickets at an average of 17.38, six wickets ahead of the second place bowler. It was the most wickets taken in a single tournament of the former ICC Trophy.
He put in some useful bowling performances in the Netherlands matches against Canada and Afghanistan in July and August, but the highlight will be that June evening at Lord's when the Dutch shook the cricketing world after Schiferli hit the winning runs.
Steve Tikolo (Kenya)
ODIs: 21 matches, 349 runs at 19.39, 13 wickets at 33.46
It seems that no list of top players from non-test countries is complete without mention of Steve Tikolo. He has been towards the top of the associate tree for 15 years now and is probably the second name on the all time non-test XI team sheet after Bart King, and he is still Kenya's top player.
It has been in the longer form of the game that his batting has been at its peak recently, with his off-spin bowling, which - like the finest wines - has only got better with age, coming to the fore in the limited overs game. In two four-day games against a Pakistan Cricket Academy team he scored 170 and 94 in the first match, and 108 not out and 63 in the second, though this wasn't enough to prevent defeat in both games.
Kenya had to play their first World Cup Qualifier since 1997 in April, and whilst they finished fourth to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, they were mostly unimpressive, and Tikolo relinquished the captaincy soon afterwards. He did continue to play for Kenya though, and put in a remarkable performance when he scored 158 and 169 in an Intercontinental Cup win over Canada in King City, only the tenth time this has happened in non-test international cricket history.
Tikolo is still Kenya's top player. However, he is 38 now, so his career may not last much longer, and nobody is stepping up as a long-term replacement. When he goes, Kenyan cricket will be a lot poorer.
CricketEurope's panel is as follows: