LONDON: Indian captain Virat Kohli has been named as the Leading Cricketer in the World in the 2017 edition of the respected Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, – ‘cricket’s bible’ – published this week. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan were named as two of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. According to editor Lawrence Booth, Kohli had “the year of his dreams” in 2016, “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”. Under Kohli, India won series trophies in all three formats against England in 2016-17. Booth said the star batsman’s 235 in the fourth Test against England at Mumbai confirmed him as the “spiritual successor to Sachin Tendulkar”. Kohli is the third Indian to win an award that has only been in existence since 2003 and is designed to recognise achievement in all forms of the international game in the previous calendar year. Dynamic opener Virender Sehwag won twice, in 2008 and 2009, with Tendulkar himself awarded the title in 2010. The 2017 women’s award was won by Australia’s Ellyse Perry. While the Leading Cricketer of the Year award is a relatively new concept by the standards of Wisden – a British-based publication, which has appeared every year since 1864, with not even the First and Second World Wars halting its print run – the Five Cricketers of the Year is a tradition that dates back 128 years.
The usual criteria for inclusion in that award, which can only be won once in a player’s career, is the impact a player had on the preceding English season. Veteran batsmen Misbah and Younis were both honoured in the context of their performances during Pakistan’s 2-2 Test series draw in England – a result that saw Pakistan, under Misbah’s captaincy, briefly rise to No. 1 in the world Test rankings. “Misbah-ul-Haq was central to one of the most riveting series in England for years,” wrote Booth. “His century in the First Test at Lord’s set a benchmark for his teammates, 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.” Turning to Younis, he added: “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.” England all-rounder Chris Woakes, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2016 that included 26 wickets at 16 apiece in four Tests against Pakistan, was also one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones, whose hat-trick against Yorkshire at Lord’s sealed the County Championship title for the London club, and Northamptonshire batsman Ben Duckett, who scored 2,706 runs in all formats during a prolific season, completed the quintet. Reflecting on other topics, Booth said Alastair Cook had chosen “the right time to go” in resigning as England’s Test captain following the 4-0 series loss in India. However, he added: “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.”