Virat Kohli, the India captain, has been honoured as the Leading Cricketer in the World in the 2017 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, which is published this week.
Kohli produced “the year of his dreams”, writes editor Lawrence Booth, “averaging more with the bat in each of the three formats than anyone: 75 in Tests, 92 in one-day internationals and 106 in Twenty20 internationals”.
On his watch, India completed a clean sweep of trophies in the Test, ODI and T20 series against England in 2016-17, with his 235 against England in the fourth Test at Mumbai confirming him, in Booth’s words, as “the spiritual successor to Sachin Tendulkar”.
Kohli is the third Indian to win an award that has been running since 2003, and which covers all formats of the international game in the preceding calendar year. Virender Sehwag won it twice, in 2008 and 2009, and Tendulkar once, in 2010. The women’s award was won by Australia’s Ellyse Perry.
There is an Asian theme to the Almanack’s awards this year, with Pakistan’s veteran batsmen, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, each being named as one of Wisden’s prestigious Five Cricketers of the Year, following their roles in a memorable 2-2 drawn series in England last summer, which contributed to their country’s brief tenure as the No.1-ranked Test nation.
“Misbah-ul-Haq was central to one of the most riveting series in England for years,” writes Booth. “His century in the First Test at Lord’s set a benchmark for his team-mates, while his celebratory press-ups became one of the motifs of the year. Against the odds, he led Pakistan, without a home Test since 2009, to the top of the rankings – and all at the age of 42.”
“With the pressure on, Younis Khan delivered. His classy 218 in the final Test of the summer, at The Oval, helped Pakistan square the series after successive defeats had left them in danger of squandering their win at Lord’s. It was his 32nd Test hundred – and a reminder that his struggles earlier in the series had been a blip rather than part of a decline.”
Chris Woakes, England’s breakthrough cricketer of 2016, is also a recipient of Wisden’s oldest honour, which dates back to 1889 and can only be awarded once in a player’s career, after claiming 26 wickets at 16 in the four Tests against Pakistan. “This was the year Chris Woakes announced himself as an international-class all-rounder,” writes Booth.
Toby Roland-Jones, whose hat-trick against Yorkshire at Lord’s sealed Middlesex’s first County Championship triumph in 23 years, and Ben Duckett, who amassed 2,706 runs in all formats in a stellar summer, complete the list.
Having praised England’s positive approach across all formats in his 2016 Notes by the Editor, Booth has to reflect this year on a more retrenched approach, particularly in Test cricket, which resulted – at the end of the 4-0 defeat against India – in the resignation of Alastair Cook after five years as captain.
“He chose the right time to go,” writes Booth. “By his own admission, England’s Test cricket had stagnated. This was partly a result of being lumbered with seven matches in less than nine weeks in Bangladesh and India, a touring schedule that must never be repeated.
“But the two meltdowns during his reign – Australia 2013-14 and India 2016-17 – reflected an abiding weakness. Lacking the tactical acumen to influence a game on its own, Cook was half the leader when he wasn’t scoring runs. That his team lost only four of his 17 Test series in charge was testament to a very English grit: understated, occasionally self-conscious, always bloody-minded. It proved an exhausting combination.”
Elsewhere in his notes, Booth reflects on an extraordinary turn of events at the ICC meeting in Dubai in February, in which, as he puts it, “the world ganged up on India”, and he also takes the ECB to task for their hard-handed approach to Durham’s financial woes, which resulted in their relegation to Division Two of the County Championship.
“In September, believing they were fighting for their first-division lives, Durham fielded fast bowler Mark Wood against Surrey; Wood aggravated an ankle injury, and was ruled out of England’s winter tours, when his skiddy pace might have come in handy.
“Not only that, but other teams threw everything into avoiding a relegation which was 50% less likely than they realised. It would have been better to come clean about Durham’s fate at the time. Instead, with games taking place which some officials appeared to know would be meaningless, the County Championship was brought into disrepute.”
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