The 2018 edition of Wisden has continued to break new ground, with three members of the England Women’s World Cup-winning team named among the Five Cricketers of the Year: Anya Shrubsole – who also becomes the first woman to feature on the cover – Heather Knight and Nat Sciver.
For the second year running, Virat Kohli is named Leading Cricketer in the World – matching Virender Sehwag’s achievement in 2008 and 2009 – while another of the competitors in the Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s, India captain Mithali Raj, wins the Leading Women’s Cricketer accolade. Afghanistan’s teenage sensation, Rashid Khan, is the inaugural winner of a new award for the foremost T20 player in the game.
Previously, only two women have won places among Wisden‘s Five – Claire Taylor (2009) and Charlotte Edwards (2014) – a tradition that dates back to 1889 and is judged on performances during the English summer, with no player able to be named more than once.
Alongside Shrubsole, Knight and Sciver, West Indies’ batsman Shai Hope, scorer of twin hundreds in a famous win at Headingley, and Essex’s Jamie Porter, the seamer who helped lead them to a first County Championship in 25 years, make up the Five Cricketers of the Year for 2017. Winners receive a commemorative edition of the Almanack, which is published on Wednesday.
Lawrence Booth, the editor of Wisden, praised Knight’s role in lifting the World Cup as “the culmination of a personal tour de force that helped change women’s cricket for ever” and said no stroke was more memorable in 2017 than Sciver’s flick through the legs, christened the “Natmeg”. On Shrubsole’s match-winning turn at Lord’s, he added: “She finished with figures of six for 46, the best in a World Cup final, and the status of a national hero.”
While the women’s game may enjoy a higher profile than it has ever done, Booth writes in his Editor’s Notes that there remains work to be done and calls for a statue to be erected of the pioneering Rachael Heyhoe Flint, who died last year. “If Barnsley and Hobart can honour Dickie Bird and David Boon, Lord’s can find room for Rachael Heyhoe Flint – preferably in the Coronation Garden behind the Pavilion, casting a mischievous eye in the direction of WG.”
Although Wisden has only singled out the world’s best male cricketer since 2003, Kohli is the third player to win it twice – after Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara – and the second to do so in consecutive years. The women’s award is only in its fourth year, with Raj the first Indian to be honoured.
“For the second year in a row, Indian captain Virat Kohli is Wisden‘s Leading Cricketer in the World,” Booth said. “In all formats in 2017, he scored 2,818 runs – more than 700 ahead of Joe Root in second place. Three of his five Test hundreds were doubles, and the other two unbeaten, and his 1,460 one-day international runs were unsurpassed.
“Mithali Raj made it an Indian double after she was named the Leading Woman Cricketer in the World. In the course of captaining her country to within a whisker of the World Cup title, she became the leading run-scorer in the history of women’s one-day internationals, and completed her seventh successive half-century, another record.”
Elsewhere in the Almanack, Booth describes England’s Test team as “going backwards” and is critical of the ECB’s handling of the Ben Stokes affair. There is praise, however, for increased engagement with the UK’s South Asian communities. “This is about more than doing the right thing, and bringing a passionate group in from the cold. It is a matter of survival.”