India’s right-handed opener Mayank Agarwal, New Zealand’s left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel and Australia’s left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc have been nominated for ICC Player of the Month award for December 2021. The trio secured nominations after producing brilliant performances for their countries in Test cricket during the month.
Agarwal made the most of chances when fellow openers Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and KL Rahul missed Tests against New Zealand and South Africa at some point. In the two Tests at Mumbai and Centurion, he scored 276 runs at an average of 69.00, which included two fifties and a century.
After the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur finished in a tense draw, India routed New Zealand by 327 runs in Mumbai and Agarwal was the architect of the win, putting in a Player of the Match-winning performance of 150 and 62 in the two innings. He also played a crucial role in India breaching Fortress Centurion for the very first time.
Batting first in overcast conditions, Agarwal, in company of fellow Bengaluru-mate KL Rahul, set the platform for India’s victory with a brilliant opening partnership of 117.
During the stand, he was tested by the fiery Proteas’ pace attack but came out shining with a brilliant 60. India’s first-innings total of 327 eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides as the tourists won by 113 runs.
Patel’s name was immortalised in cricketing history in December, when he picked up 10 wickets in an innings against India, becoming the third player in Tests to achieve the feat after Jim Laker and Anil Kumble. The left-arm spinner played just one Test in the month, but he picked up 14 wickets at an average of 16.07.
He picked up all 10 wickets in the first innings but New Zealand failed to complement his efforts with the bat, skittled out for 62 in the first innings. In the second innings, Patel picked up four wickets, including that of openers Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara, finishing with figures of 14/225, the best bowling figures in a Test match in 2021.
Starc starred with both bat and ball in hand for Australia to retain the Ashes in just 12 playing days. In the three games held in the period of nomination, he picked up 14 wickets at an average of 19.64 and was more than handy with the bat, scoring 117 runs in the three matches at an average of 58.50.
He set the tone for Ashes win by dismissing Rory Burns with the first ball of the first Test. While batting, he gave Travis Head company with an innings of 35 and added 85 crucial runs for the eighth wicket. Starc was magnificent with the bat and ball in the second Test, picking up six wickets and scoring 58 runs in Adelaide. This included a brilliant four-wicket haul in the first innings that helped reduce England to 236, giving Australia a massive lead of 237 runs.
In the Boxing Day Test, Starc picked two crucial wickets in the first innings, including that of England’s captain Joe Root. His innings of 24 not out helped Australia gain an 82-run lead, which proved to be enough as England were bundled out for 68. He picked up three wickets in the second innings as Australia won by an innings and 14 runs to retain the urn.