Wisden names its Five
Matthew Hayden, Adam Hollioake, Nasser Hussain, Shaun Pollock and Michael Vaughan were today named as Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. But have they got it right?
Right, let's get one thing sorted before I begin. This article isn't a discussion about whether Tim de Lisle was right to do away with a 53-year-old tradition of having a couple of blokes in Victorian garb who aren't wearing sufficient protective equipment and replace them with English cricket's latest saviour. If you want to listen to people venting their respective spleens over that, then read an English broadsheet. So, the five.
No Test Cricket follower - not even the most biased Indian or Australian - will begrudge Michael Vaughan his place amongst the five on the back of some of the most scintillating strokeplay to come from an England batsman since Angus Fraser hit Muralitharan for six at the Oval in 1999. And possibly further ago than that. Similarly, Matthew Hayden spent the majority of the year atop of the PwC Test Rankings and treated the best that the world's bowlers could throw at him with disdain.
Shaun Pollock kept the South African side together in the run-up to the World Cup and guided them to the top of the ICC Test Championship - for however much that's worth - whilst maintaining averages in both disciplines that bettered the great Ian Botham. Were it not for a quite dismal World Cup - for which Pollock was, in many people's opinions, made an undeserving scapegoat for, then I sincerely doubt that his selection would be quibbled by anyone.
Adam Hollioake is next on the list, and this may seem a surprise to many. Not so, I say. To come back from the death of your brother, and then lead your side to another County Championship title, takes something special. And to do it by playing cricket in a positive, aggressive way is better still. And then to maintain personal averages of 67 with the bat in the County Championship, including a career-best 208, and 35 batting coupled to an incredible 15 with the ball in List A matches puts the icing on the cake. His deserved selection ought to prove the catalyst to his selection as England's ODI captain - but I'll broach that subject when the ECB once again display their incompetence and select Vaughan, who has far less experience at captaincy, and is not as strong a one-day player as Hollioake (at present, anyway).
Nasser, however, is a completely different story. His time was two years ago, after the return to winning ways in Summer 2000 and glorious tours to Sri Lanka and Pakistan. But no, Mark Alleyne, Martin Bicknell, Andy Caddick, Justin Langer and Darren Lehmann got the nods - Nasser's batting let him down there. And now, after a year which yielded more Test runs than you thought it did (993 @ 43.17), he's given the accolade for the work that he's done with the England team over the last four years. Excuse me, but I thought it was "Cricketer of the YEAR". Yes, Nasser deserves one. But doesn't an award out of sympathy just devalue the whole idea?
Notwithstanding Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist both averaging above 70 in 2002's Test Matches, there are two words that best sum up the reason that Nasser's selection is flawed. Those words are "Rahul" and "Dravid". In two overseas series, in the Caribbean and England, he held the line-up together more than once. A few aberrations in New Zealand can be forgiven, after all, the other four have been far from perfect. When Ajay Ratra's incompetence led to Dravid's run out on 217 at Headingley, a commentator remarked that it was the only way that England were going to get him. It was the third in his run of four consecutive Test Match centuries, and if that's not good enough for a Cricketer of the Year award, then what on earth is?
Wisden may or may not have got it right with the change of the cover design. But there will be far less complete support for its selection here. Who'll be next, Ajit Agarkar?
Over to you...