April 12, 2018
A hat-trick of World Cup winners sees women make up the majority of Wisden’s cricketers of the year for the first time in the award’s history, with Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole and Nat Sciver all named in the famous five for 2018.
Only twice before have female cricketers been among the list of leading players from the previous English summer – Claire Taylor broke new ground in 2009, Charlotte Edwards followed five years later – but that heady day last July, when Knight lifted the trophy at a packed Lord’s, has seen the floodgates open.
Making up the quintet are Jamie Porter, whose 75 wickets propelled Essex to their first County Championship title since 1992, and Shai Hope, scorer of twin hundreds as an unheralded West Indies side pulled off a shock five-wicket victory over England in the second Test at Headingley.
Indeed, it is the first time since 2002 that no current England men’s international has made the list. The 130-year-old award can only be won once in a career, of course, although it is perhaps Tammy Beaumont, leading scorer and player of the women’s World Cup, whose case was strongest among those to miss out.
Describing Knight’s achievement as “the culmination of a personal tour de force that helped change women’s cricket for ever”, Wisden’s editor, Lawrence Booth, noted the 27-year-old’s captaincy throughout a campaign in which she scored 364 runs at an average of 45, including a century against Pakistan.
It is Shrubsole who is on the cover of the 155th edition, however, after the seamer lit up a Lord’s final that had been slipping away from the home side with a spell of five for 11, in figures of six for 46, that derailed India’s chase of 229 and, according to Booth, secured “national hero status”.
Sciver, meanwhile, is credited for producing the most memorable shot of 2017 – the deliberate clip between her legs that was dubbed “The Natmeg” in some quarters – but is described as “more than a one-trick pony”, given her 346 runs in the tournament and figures of three for three with the ball against West Indies.
New to Wisden this year is the introduction of an award for the leading Twenty20 cricketer in the world. It is another sign of the times, too, both in terms of the format’s recognition, some 15 years on from its inception, and the nationality of the winner: Afghanistan’s leg-spinning sensation, Rashid Khan.
The 19-year-old has emerged as one of the most in-demand Twenty20 cricketers on the circuit – Wisden describes his googly as “one of the most dangerous deliveries in the world game” – with 80 wickets in 2017 at just 14 apiece. An economy-rate of 5.53 was equally impressive.
This short-format award complements the existing men and women’s leading cricketer in the world categories, which this year are India’s two captains: Virat Kohli and Mithali Raj. Their sides lost their respective global finals – the Champions Trophy and the Women’s World Cup – but they enjoyed stellar returns personally.
For Kohli it is the second year in succession he has topped the lot, with his 2,818 runs across all formats more than 700 ahead of Joe Root in second place. Raj, meanwhile, surpassed Edwards as the all-time leading run scorer in women’s ODIs and scored a record seven successive half-centuries.
Elsewhere in Wisden, which is published on Thursday, Booth uses his notes to warn the England and Wales Cricket Board not to take the Ashes for granted after the winter’s 4-0 defeat in Australia amid a record run of 13 away Tests without a victory for the national team.
The ECB’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, also sets out his vision for the new Twenty20 tournament from 2020 onwards – with the counter argument presented by ESPNCricinfo’s George Dobell – while Tanya Aldred has written on both sexism in cricket and the sport’s relationship with the environment.
Among the index of unusual occurrences in this year’s edition is the tantalising “Groundstaff forced home in underpants”.