MCC is delighted to announce that Nepal’s Aasif Sheikh is the recipient of the 2022 Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award.
Wicketkeeper-batter Aasif has been recognised with this award, which the Club runs in conjunction with BBC, for his sporting conduct shown in a Men’s T20 International between Nepal and Ireland in February 2022.
The match in Al-Almerat, part of the Oman Quadrangular T20I Series, saw Aasif refuse to run out Ireland’s Andy McBrine, who was accidentally upended by bowler Kamal Airee when attempting a run in the 19th over of the Irish innings.
Kamal, bowling to Mark Adair, fielded off his own bowling and Aasif received the throw cleanly but opted not to remove the bails and run out McBrine, despite having plenty of time to do so until the batter was to make his ground at the striker’s end. The move was supported by Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichhane at the time who immediately shook McBrine’s hand in the aftermath.
Andrew Leonard's video clip of the incident has been viewed over 1.4 million times on YouTube (below) and was shared widely on social media, amassing millions of views worldwide in the days after the match.
The CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award was created in 2013 by MCC and the BBC in memory of former MCC President and BBC Test Match Special commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins (“CMJ”), who was passionate about promoting the spirit of the game. For the first time in its history, MCC and BBC invited public nominations for the award in December 2022 and Aasif Sheikh’s conduct for Nepal was adjudged to be the winning entry.
"Regardless of the result, we always strive to play fairly, respect everyone on and off the field, and give it our all"
Aasif Sheikh said of the award: “This feels surreal. The CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award is an honour and to receive it, I am simply grateful.
“My parents raised me to be humble and kind in all contexts, my coaches taught me what true team play is and my teammates who keep encouraging me to do my best are equally a part of this success.
“Regardless of the result, we always strive to play fairly, respect everyone on and off the field, and give it our all.
“The moment itself was a spontaneous decision on my/our part not to take the wicket because it would have been unfair to the opponent. We wouldn't be pleased if our team had got the wicket in that manner, since it would be against our culture and the spirit of sportsmanship.
“They say that cricket is a game of gentlemen and I believe the Spirit of Cricket Award truly signifies that. Thank you MCC.”
MCC and BBC also highly commended two other individuals who were nominated during the process. England white-ball captain Jos Buttler refused to appeal for obstructing the field when Australia’s Matthew Wade top-edged a Mark Wood delivery, with the batter blocking the bowler’s attempt to make the catch in the Men’s T20I between the teams in Perth in October 2022.
Ben Stokes has also been commended for his captaincy of the England Men’s Test team, for playing attacking and entertaining cricket. Stokes donating his match fees from the Pakistan series to the country’s flood appeal and ensuring young newcomer Rehan Ahmed featured prominently in the trophy presentation were two of the factors as to why he was nominated.
Jamie Cox, Director of Cricket and Operations, said: “We were thrilled to be able to throw this important award open to public nominations in 2022 and it was no surprise that Aasif Sheikh’s act of selflessness was amongst the entries.
“For a young player, and indeed captain, to display an act of sportsmanship such as this in a form of cricket where every single run can make a difference is exactly why we talk about the spirit of the game, and this award is thoroughly deserved.
"Christopher believed that of course you play to win, but it as important you play the game in the right way."
Jonathan Agnew, BBC Cricket correspondent, said: “Our much-missed colleague CMJ would absolutely have approved of the actions of Aasif Sheikh. Christopher believed that of course you play to win, but it as important you play the game in the right way.
“It is also good to see the two captains of the England men’s teams Jos and Ben commended, as they are setting a brilliant example to young cricketers”
Aasif Sheikh will be officially presented with the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award later this year. He was also awarded the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award for his actions in January of this year.
The previous winners of the award since the inception in 2013 are as follows:
2013 Wayne Madsen (Derbyshire)
2014 Luke Wright (Sussex)
2015 Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
2016 Tom Fell (Worcestershire)
2017 Anya Shrubsole (England)
2018 Dan Bowser and Chris Edwards (England Learning Disability Team)
2019 New Zealand Men’s Team
2020 Cricket West Indies
2021 No award made