Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack named two Pakistanis and three Englishmen as its Cricketers of the Year at the launch of its 2017 edition on Wednesday‚ while Virat Kohli was crowned Leading Cricketer in the World.
India’s captain‚ who is evidently not short on self-regard‚ may wonder what took Wisden so long.
If so‚ here’s hoping he is placated by having his photograph on the cover and by the editor‚ Lawrence Booth‚ lauding him as the "spiritual successor to Sachin Tendulkar".
But South Africans will wonder something else: why their players have disappeared from the pages of the august publication. The last of them so honoured was Dale Steyn‚ who was the Leading Cricketer in the World in 2014.
That was the year after he‚ Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis were among the Cricketers of the Year. In fact‚ four of the five were born in SA: England’s Nick Compton is from Durban.
They joined 10 South Africans — 11 if we count Kevin Pietersen — who have made it to the list of cricket’s elite players since readmission in 1991.
That none has had his efforts recognised for three years has to do with retirement‚ injury and the fact that SA are no longer the force they were when they rose to the top of the Test rankings in August 2012.
But‚ even accounting for their crash from No1 to No7 in 2016‚ South Africans could argue that their team has been given a raw deal by Wisden.
Starting with their victory at Lord’s on July 20 2012 — which took SA to the top of the rankings — they have played 43 Tests‚ won 22 and lost nine.
Of their 43 Tests before that game at Lord’s‚ stretching back to January 2008‚ SA also won 22. They lost 10.
And all they have to show for their success between 2008 and 2012 on the Wisden scorecard are Dale Benkenstein‚ Mark Boucher and Neil McKenzie‚ who all made the grade in 2009.
Of course‚ Wisden is largely a book about cricket in England‚ and therefore about players who are prominent there regardless of where they are from.
That it was the global authority on the game until the internet age was due to England’s pre-eminence in all matters cricket‚ sometimes more off the field than on.
This kind of nostalgia still holds with a certain sector of the game’s following.
How many‚ for instance‚ insist that Lord’s is the "home of cricket"?
Officially‚ that place is the International Cricket Council’s offices in Dubai. Realistically‚ it is anywhere in India.
Spiritually‚ Lord’s it may be. But only for those who consider cricket quintessentially English.
For all that‚ Wisden is less part of cricket’s creaking past than it is of its bracing present. The 2017 edition cover photograph‚ for instance‚ is of Kohli playing a reverse sweep during a Test match.