Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Wisden Five

Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year have been published. An annual honour of the highest degree; being named as one of the Wisden Five is the pinnacle of a cricketer's career, and is awarded to those who have made the biggest impact on the previous English cricketing summer. This year, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Matt Prior, Graham Onions and Michael Clarke have been chosen. Clarke and Swann aside, it's difficult to argue for their inclusion.

Over the English summer, England played the West Indies, the World T20, and the Ashes against Australia (as well as ODIs against both of the touring nations). Graham Onions made his international debut against the West Indies. Yes, he took five wickets on debut (a fine achievement), but this was against a very disinterested West Indian side, who were upset that they were not still playing in the IPL. Onions did not feature in the ODI series, or the World T20, or indeed the opening Ashes test. When he did come in, for tests 2, 3 and 4, Onions bowled well (when the ball was swinging), but you couldn't argue that his bowling won any games for England. His Australian counterparts Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Johnson all outbowled him, and would have been better candidates for inclusion in the list.

Stuart Broad did take an Ashes winning 5 for at the Oval, and should be applauded. But we shouldn't forget the first four tests, where he looked as threatening to batsmen as a bumble-bee; it could sting you but it probably won't, and is easily swatted away. His inability to bowl remotely dangerous balls made him very much the scapegoat of the England attack, and there were large calls for him to be dropped ahead of the 5th test. Arguably, his batting outperformed his bowling, but a Wisden Cricketer of the Year should not be made due to batting exploits at number 8. Again, the fifth test aside, Broad was outbowled by Hilfenhaus and Siddle. But Broad did make the impact of winning England the Ashes, so my argument against him is basically me being very awkward.

The inclusion of Matt Prior is an interesting one. It can't be denied that Prior's keeping has improved, but the words "polishing" and "turd" do come to mind. If we are to judge Prior as a specialist number 6, he was outscored by Marcus North, and if we are to judge him as a wicket keeper - batsman, he was outplayed by Brad Haddin. Prior didn't even make the World T20 squad; and was rubbish in the one dayers, so he clearly didn't make that much of an impact on the English summer.

The announcement of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year are always going to create debate, seen most clearly when Claire Taylor was on the list last year. It's hard to argue with Swann (who was England's best player over 2009), and Clarke, who Strauss aside was the player of the Ashes. However, while England did defy the odds to win, Prior and Onions were only supplementary players to the victory, and statistically, there should have been more Australians on the list than Englishmen. However, Wisden's rules state that a player cannot win the award twice, meaning it would have been impossible for Strauss, Anderson, Flintoff, Harmison and Collingwood to be on the list. And Onions, Broad and Prior were the only players left. Well, they weren't going to pick Ravi Bopara.

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