In cricket, Man of the Match awards are handed over as a token of brilliance to individual performances. A standout knock, a disciplined spell or a combination of both qualify the player for the best player honours.
Generally given to the best player of the winning side, there have been several instances when the MoM was given to a player of the losing side, making a deep impact on the proceedings of the game.
However, there have been some distinct incidents, where Man of the Match awards were given for reasons unprecedented. Let's have a look at these incidents:
#5 Team Man of the Match award
Man of the Match awards are given to appreciate the standout performance of an individual player in a game. However, there are some interesting incidents where the entire squads ended up getting the MoM Award.
The first instance occurred in the fourth ODI of the 1996 New Zealand tour of West Indies, where the Kiwis managed 158 runs batting first, with Spearman top scoring with 41. It turned out to be a low-scoring thriller, and the visitors edged the home side by four runs, helped by a disciplined spell of all the bowlers. The entire team received the Man of the Match award.
Five months later, another such incident occurred at Trent Bridge, where Pakistan locked horns with England in the third ODI of the tour at Trent Bridge. Batting first, England managed to put 246 runs on the board, as Nick Knight, who carried his bat with a wonderful hundred, failed to solicit support from the other end. Pakistani side executed their game plan to perfection as a team, with each player contributing vitally with the bat or the ball. Once again, the entire team ended up getting the best player honours.
One such incident also occurred in the longest format, in the fifth Test match of the 1998-99 West Indies tour of South Africa. The Proteas completed a whitewash, winning the game by a huge margin of 351 runs, their biggest win of the tour.
Such a resounding win requires sound coordination among all the three departments of the game, which was exactly what the home team did. The players justified their role to perfection, resulting in an all-round effort and another team MoM award.
#4 Man of the Match award without a run, wicket, or catch
There has been a noticeable incident where Cameron Cuffy of West Indies bagged the Man of the Match award without scoring a run, picking a wicket or taking a catch! In the opening game of the Coca-Cola Cup at Harare in 2001, hosts Zimbabwe took on West Indies. The visiting side posted 266/5 on the board, helped by half centuries of Darren Ganga, Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The bowlers did a decent job, picking wickets at regular intervals, and did not allow any significant partnership to blossom. However, they were a bit expensive, considering the particulars of that contest. It was Cameron Cuffy, who tied the hands of the batsmen, giving away just 20 runs in his quota of 10 overs, and bowling 2 maidens.
Although he did not have his name in the share of wickets unlike Marlon Samuels and Mervyn Dillon, who picked up three wickets apiece, it was Cuffy's spell which swung the game in the favour of the Caribbeans. Cuffy did contribute to the wickets with a run-out.
#3 Man of the Match for fielding
Man of the Match honours are usually given for a magnificent knock, a disciplined spell or an all-round contribution. However, there have been instances where players have won these awards for their on-field brilliance.
Players like Gus Logle, Mark Taylor, and Ravindra Jadeja have been a few to achieve this feat. But, the most noticeable incident has been involving the man who has arguably been the best fielder ever in cricket, Jonty Rhodes, as he received the award for his athleticism as a substitute!
In the fourth game of the Hero Cup in 1993, South Africa faced West Indies at Mumbai. In an era when the 12th man could be used for either batting or bowling and then released, Rhodes scored 40 runs as South Africa managed to put 180 runs on the board.
The Caribbeans later faced the wrath of Rhodes, who was a livewire on the field. He took absolute blinders to send Brian Lara, Phil Simmons and Desmond Haynes back to the dressing room, mesmerizing one and all with his dives and jumps. He followed it up with two more catches, to set a world record for the most catches by an outfielder, a record which still remains unconquered.
The Protea received the Man of the Match award for his high degree of athleticism, as a substitute, and remains the only player to do so till date.
#2 Man of the Match for captaincy
A captain's position is always under the scanner, as it is a result of his resource channelization that the team ends up on the winning side or vice versa. There have been many iconic captains to embrace the game of cricket, however, there are only two incidents where captains have received the MoM award for their astute thinking.
One such incident took place in the 1983 World Cup when England took on Sri Lanka in a league stage encounter. The English captain Bob Willis put Sri Lanka to bat on a wicket, which according to Wisden, had little help for the bowlers. However, Willis managed his bowlers to perfection, along with some tactical field placements as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 136. Willis received the Man of the Match award for his shrewd captaincy, ahead of Paul Allot and Graeme Fowler who had their share in runs and wickets.
When we speak about captaincy and awards, there is one man whom we just cannot miss - Mahendra Singh Dhoni. India faced Pakistan in the third ODI of the 2012-13 series in Delhi, with the visiting side already bagging the series. The Indian team managed just 167 batting first. In what would have been one of the coldest conditions to play, with the temperatures dipping to 1.5-degree Celsius, MS kept the morale of his team, as he channelized his bowlers to perfection, continuously building pressure on Pakistan. Coupled with his majestic field placements, the visiting side yielded to the pressure as they were bowled out for 157, handing India a 10-run victory.
Though MSD top-scored for India with 36, he received the Man of the Match award for boosting the morale of his side in the face of adversities, as he was chosen ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, the standout bowlers for India.
#1 Groundsmen winning the Man of the Match award
Perhaps the most iconic Man of the Match incident unfolded at The Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, where groundsman Chris Scott and his dedicated team were awarded the prize for making play possible in a rain-marred encounter.
South Africa hosted New Zealand for the third and final Test of the series, which was a dead rubber as the hosts had already pocketed the series. Heavy rain prevented any game on an opening day. However, Chris Scott and his team did an appreciable job to make play possible on the second day.
As the third and fourth days were hit again by heavy showers, the groundsmen once again did a fabulous job to drain the field and make the game possible on the final day. The game ended in a lifeless draw, with the players toiling for two days, whereas the groundsmen slogging for three! This saw one of the most noticeable events in the history of cricket, as the groundsmen were handed the MoM honours in the post-match presentation.