By RON FANFAIR
Canadian cricket all-rounders Rizwan Cheema and Khurram Chohan have been nominated for International Cricket Council (ICC) awards.
The Pakistani-born players, who recently signed central contracts with Cricket Canada, have been short listed in the Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year category by a five-man selection committee that comprises chair Clive Lloyd, Anil Kumble, Mudassar Nazar, Bob Taylor and Stephen Fleming.
“This is great news for us,” said national coach Pubudu Dassanayake who represented Sri Lanka and Canada. “They have made an impact since their inclusion in the last year. They have filled the gap somewhat vacated by John Davison and Ian Billcliff who have hardly been with the side in the past 12 months.
“These are players who have almost won games for us single-handedly which says a lot about their talent and ability. They have both become integral players of the national side and we expect much from them as we prepare for the World Cup in 2011.”
Cheema, a hard-hitting right-handed opener and useful medium pacer, made an impact in his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Bermuda in the triangular series that also included the West Indies on August 18, 2008 at King City. He smashed 34 off 24 balls and took two catches and a wicket in his team’s 25-run win.
In the next game, he belted the West Indies bowling attack that included Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell for 89 off 61 balls with six huge sixes and 10 boundaries.
He ended the competition with a series-best 184 runs (av. 61.33), 12 sixes and three catches, prompting former West Indies fast bowler and competition adjudicator Colin Croft to select him as the Player of the Series.
Cheema also shone in last October’s Al Barakah Twenty/20 international series at King City, finishing as the third leading scorer with 127 runs (av. 31.75) and the top sixes hitter with 10. Test-playing nations Sri Lanka and Pakistan and ICC Full Member Zimbabwe participated in the series last Thanksgiving weekend.
Cheema, who has compiled 426 runs (av. 42.60) in 11 ODIs, is the reigning Toronto & District Cricket Association (TDCA) Player of the Year after registering 289 runs (av. 22.23) in 15 innings and securing 24 wickets (av. 11.88) with Popeyes Cricket Club in 2008.
Last month, he and Chohan led Canada to a convincing nine-wicket win with 202 balls remaining over Kenya at King City. Cheema scored a lightning 76 not out off 38 balls with four sixes and 10 boundaries after Chohan set up the win, taking 4-26 off 10 overs.
Chohan made his ODI debut against Ireland last April in South Africa. He has so far scored 79 runs and claimed nine wickets in eight ODIs.
Other players nominated in the Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year category for their performances between August 13, 2008 and August 24, 2009, are former Kenyan captain Steve Tikolo, Irishmen Trent Johnson, William Porterfield, Alex Cusack, Boyd Rankin, Kevin O’Brien, Regan West and Niall O’Brien and Dutchmen Ryan ten Doeschate, Edgar Schiferli and Bas Zuiderent.
ICC chief executive officer Haroon Lorgat said the awards are an opportunity for the ICC and the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA) to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable performances of the world’s top players.
“It’s also a chance for followers of our great sport to reflect on some of the great cricketing feats they have witnessed over the past year,” he said. “This will be the sixth time the awards have been handed out and yet again there are so many great performances to recall. Selecting the winners will no doubt test our selectors and voting academy.”
The awards ceremony takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 1 during the ICC Champions Trophy tournament.