Ben Stokes has been chosen as Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World for the second consecutive year while 44 year-old Darren Stevens of Kent has been named one of the Five Cricketers of the Year, the fourth oldest in the publication’s history. The Leading Woman Cricketer in the World was awarded to Australian batter Beth Mooney.
Stevens is joined on the list by West Indian all-rounder Jason Holder, Pakistani wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan and two of England’s new-look top order, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley. Excellence in, or influence on, the previous English summer are the major criteria for inclusion on the list and no player can be chosen more than once. The Leading T20 Cricketer in the World is West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard.
Stokes, who was ruled out of the IPL earlier this week having broken a finger on his left hand, was chosen after a year in which he averaged 58 with the bat in Test cricket – better than any other player – and just 19 with the ball. He becomes the first England player to be named Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World more than once following his award in 2020 for his World Cup and Ashes heroics.
Mooney, who was named the Belinda Clark Medalist at the Australia Cricket Awards in February, was the player of the tournament at the T20 World Cup last March – she scored an unbeaten half-century in the final against India and averaged 64 across the tournament – as well as the leading run scorer in the Women’s Big Bash.
In just five Bob Willis Trophy matches last season, Stevens took 29 wickets, performances which earned him a contract extension at Kent and confirmed his status as one of the best new ball bowlers in the country. He is the oldest player to be named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year since 1933, when Leicestershire’s all-rounder Ewart Astill won it. Stevens shows no signs of slowing down either, having scored a hundred in Kent’s opening Championship game last week,
Last summer was a breakthrough season for Crawley who made a fine double hundred against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl while Sibley was rewarded for some dogged innings at the top of England’s order during a difficult summer for opening batsmen. Rizwan, who has recently captained Pakistan, was rewarded after averaging more than 40 with the bat in the Test series against England last summer while providing what Booth calls “an electric presence behind the stumps”.
The editor Lawrence Booth describes Holder as a “giant” for his contribution during the English season. “After agreeing to lead his West Indies side on a tour of Covid-hit Britain, he inspired his team to victory over England at the Rose Bowl with first-innings figures of six for 42,” Booth says. “Holder also led a dignified West Indian response to Black Lives Matter, taking a knee with his team-mates before each Test and wearing a black glove, a gesture that recalled American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.”
Pollard, the West Indian T20 skipper, was described as taking “T20 hitting to new heights in 2020”. He scored 59 sixes across his T20 matches at a rate of one every 5.5 balls. His strike rate for the year was 199 and he averaged 53. He won two titles as well, the Caribbean Premier League with the Trinbago Knight Riders and the Indian Premier League with Mumbai Indians.
This year’s Wisden, published on Thursday (April 15), is the 158th edition and while the famous book has reported on many memorable and infamous events in that time, it can rarely have reported on a year quite like the one just gone. The coronavirus pandemic meant there was less cricket in 2020 than there would otherwise have been and as Booth writes: “Cricket, like everything else, had its heart ripped out…It lost family and friends.
“Cricket has never been less important than in 2020 – and never more. As coronavirus spread, it seemed frivolous to wonder when the season might start, or whether anyone would be there to watch; months later, with the UK’s death toll into six figures, even writing about runs and wickets felt wrong.
“The pace of events was dizzying, shocking. David Hodgkiss was the Lancashire chairman when Wisden 2020 was printing; by publication, he had died. And the obituaries this year include at least 15 others linked to Covid-19. They were all ages, and from every corner of the game. Lee Nurse was just 43, and had played for Berkshire. Riaz Sheikh, a former leg-spinner who was 51, once dismissed Inzamam-ulHaq. Phil Wright, aged 60, was Leicestershire’s popular dressing-room attendant. “The 73-year-old Chetan Chauhan will always be four decades younger, dragged by Sunil Gavaskar towards the pavilion after an lbw decision in a Test at Melbourne. Ken Merchant, a member of The Cricket Society, died at the age of 81, on the same day as his wife, in the same Southend hospital ward. Peter Edrich, cousin of Bill and John, was 93.
“How did cricket go on? The trite answer is it had to; those above would have had it no other way.”
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