Player of the Year 2011

Thursday 15th September 2011

Men’s First Team

All-rounder Azhar Mahmood has been named Kent Cricket’s Player of the Year for 2011 by the Club’s loyal supporters. The Pakistan international, who performed superbly in all forms of the game throughout the summer, edged out fellow big hitter Darren Stevens as well over a thousand votes were cast to decide who should scoop the top award.

Azhar, now 36, continues to excel with both bat and ball in all competitions. Typically, it was the Friends Life t20 format where his talents shone the brightest – this time mainly with the bat. After promotion to number three in the batting line-up he amassed 485 runs at an average of 40.41, including his maiden t20 ton, off just 57 balls against Gloucestershire at Beckenham, to lead the Invicta County to the quarter-final stages.

Combined with 14 t20 wickets, these statistics show that Azhar still remains one of the most effective and explosive performers on the domestic circuit. His new ball and death bowling partnership with fellow countryman Wahab Riaz will live long in the memory of many Kent fans as the pair thrilled the crowds by showcasing some truly brilliant skills.

After hearing news of the award, the popular Azhar, capped 21 times at Test-match level by his country, expressed delight at being rewarded for his fine efforts: “This is great, it’s my first time winning this award at Kent and I'm really honoured. Hopefully I will win it again next year too! Darren has also done really well this season. I would like to say thank you to Keysy (Rob Key) and Farby (Paul Farbrace). Thanks also to my family for their support through everything, especially my wife Ebba.”

It was not only the shortest form of the game where the former Surrey man showed his class in 2011. In the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, the right-arm seam bowler was comfortably Kent’s leading wicket-taker as he claimed 18 victims, in his ten appearances, at an average of 24.27. With the bat he added 246 runs at an average of 27.33 to further highlight the fact that he remains an integral part of the Kent one-day outfit.

Director of Cricket Paul Farbrace echoed the thoughts of most Kent supporters when he had this to say upon learning the result of the fans vote: “I'm really chuffed for Azhar. He's been great all season and fully deserves this award. He seems to get better with age.”

Despite being primarily on a one-day based contract at Kent, Azhar made seven Championship appearances throughout the season and once again was in prime form. With an average in excess of 50, a fine effort for an all-rounder, the right-hander tops the county’s batting list and, in the current day/night game against Glamorgan, will be looking to get over the 500-run barrier. Going into the final day of the season, Azhar is unbeaten on 31 – 18 away from reaching the 500-run milestone. His bucket-load of runs include four half-centuries, with a highest of 97 – made against Derbyshire last week.

With the ball Azhar has again led the line and, more importantly, led the way for the young battery of bowlers that Kent are currently nurturing. His 23 wickets have come at an average of 23.73, with a best of 6-36 against Middlesex at Lord’s back in June. Azhar’s economy rate of 2.59 in four-day cricket shows that his standards for line and length remain as strict as ever.

Since making his debut in 2008, Azhar has been a real favourite with the supporters and a wonderful servant to Kent Cricket. Everyone at the club would like to congratulate him on being recognised for his fine performances throughout the 2011 season.

A special mention also belongs to Darren Stevens who finished a close second for the award. The all-rounder enjoyed another fine season claiming 41 first-class wickets, scoring 819 LV= CC runs and again played a pivotal role in the Spitfires’ one-day sides. During 2011, he became the all-time leading run-scorer in domestic t20 cricket. His 375 runs, at an average of 46.87, maintain his position as one of the most explosive batsmen in England. Despite narrowly losing out to Azhar, Stevens still claimed the FTI MVP award for August after a string of brilliant displays – most notably against Surrey, at Canterbury when he claimed career best bowling figures of 7-21 (match figures of 11-70). He took 19 wickets in August and, alongside his valuable runs, remains a highly-regarded all-rounder on the county circuit.