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Wisden 2021 – Ben Stokes named leading cricketer in the world for second straight year

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Ben Stokes has been named as the leading cricketer in the world for a second consecutive year in the 2021 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, which is published on April 15.

Stokes amassed 641 Test runs at 58.27 for the calendar year, which was more than anyone else, while his 19 wickets cost just 18.73 runs apiece.

The honour comes after Stokes was named leading cricketer in the world in the 2020 edition, having guided England to their maiden World Cup title in 2019 and then producing one of the great Test innings to defeat Australia in the Ashes Test at Headingley. In doing so, Stokes ended a three-year run for India’s Virat Kohli in winning the award and became the first English player since Andrew Flintoff in 2005 to be regarded as the best contemporary player in the world.

“Ben Stokes becomes the first England player to be named Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World more than once, retaining the title he claimed in 2020,” said Wisden’s editor, Lawrence Booth. “He did it all against a backdrop of personal tragedy: his father, Ged, died in December at the age of 65.”

Darren Stevens, the Kent allrounder, was named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year at the age of 44, the fourth-oldest on record, after a standout performance in the Bob Willis Trophy. Players are chosen by the editor with “excellence in, or influence on, the previous English summer” the main criteria, and cannot be chosen more than once in their career.

“Darren Stevens is Wisden’s oldest Cricketer of the Year since Leicestershire’s Ewart Astill in 1933,” said Booth. “His 29 Bob Willis Trophy wickets for Kent at an average of 15 confirmed his status as one of the domestic game’s most unsung heroes.”

Zak Crawley, Stevens’ county team-mate, was another Cricketer of the Year after his feats for England. Crawley scored 267 against Pakistan in the third Test at the Ageas Bowl, a knock bettered only once by an England No. 3, when Walter Hammond made 336 not out at Auckland in 1932-33. Crawley also scored centuries against Hampshire in the Bob Willis Trophy and the T20 Blast.

He was joined on the list by fellow England batter Dom Sibley, whose stubborn presence at the top of the order was typified when he batted for more than nine hours to score for 120 and help square the series against West Indies. Jason Holder, the West Indies captain on that tour, and Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan also made the list.

“Jason Holder was a giant both on and off the field last summer,” Booth said. “After agreeing to lead his West Indies side on a tour of Covid-hit Britain, he inspired his team to victory over England at the Rose Bowl with first-innings figures of six for 42.

“Holder also led a dignified West Indian response to Black Lives Matter, taking a knee with his team-mates before each Test and wearing a black glove, a gesture that recalled American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.

“Mohammad Rizwan was an electric presence behind the stumps for Pakistan, pulling off arguably the take of the summer when he caught Ben Stokes high to his left during the First Test at Old Trafford. He also averaged 40 with the bat, and was later confirmed as his country’s new captain.”

Australia’s Beth Mooney was named as the Leading Woman Cricketer in the World after she was player of the tournament at the T20 World Cup, her unbeaten 78 off 54 balls helping the hosts see off India in front of an 86,000-plus crowd in the final at the MCG. She was also the leading run-scorer in the WBBL.

Kieron Pollard was named as the Leading T20 Cricketer in the world with 59 sixes in various competitions – at a rate of one every 5.5 balls – with a staggering strike rate of 199.07 and averaging 53.58. He also added to his considerable list of titles, with Trinbago Knight Riders winning the CPL and Mumbai Indians following suit in the IPL.

The Almanack features on its cover an image that would become all too familiar in daily life, let alone around the cricket field: Stuart Broad wearing a protective face mask as the sport and the world came to terms with Covid-19.

Steve Waugh, the former Australia Test captain, won the photograph of the year competition for his image of children playing cricket among sand dunes near Osian, India, taken while he was travelling around the country to film a TV documentary.

In his Editor’s Notes, Booth paints a poignant picture of the impact the pandemic had on cricket, remembering players lost to the disease and praising “swift measures” taken by the ECB to ensure the game could go on amid the global health crisis.

“Cricket, like everything else, had its heart ripped out… It lost family and friends,” he writes. “Cricket has never been less important than in 2020 – and never more. As coronavirus spread, it seemed frivolous to wonder when the season might start, or whether anyone would be there to watch; months later, with the UK’s death toll into six figures, even writing about runs and wickets felt wrong.”

Booth also criticises the financial inequalities prevalent in the game and says the England team were wrong to stop taking a knee in the fight against racism.

“For a while, cricket said and did the right things,” he writes. “The ECB admitted they had let things slip, and promised action… But cricket isn’t fond of radicalism (unless there is money to be made). Predictably, it lost its nerve. By the time Pakistan arrived, taking a knee had been quietly dropped, amid supposed concerns about the politicisation of BLM.

“Cricket has been here before: a sympathetic ear, a pat on the shoulder, a promise that things will change. They never do, but this time they must… By not taking a knee, cricket raised a finger.”

Elsewhere in the Almanack, Wisden marks 50 years of ODIs by naming its greatest player for each decade: Viv Richards (1970s), Kapil Dev (1980s), Sachin Tendulkar (1990s), Muttiah Muralitharan (2000s) and Virat Kohli (2010s).



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Shakib Al Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman join Bangladesh team bubble after quarantine

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Both players left quarantine on Monday night, 11 days after they arrived in Dhaka following the IPL’s deferment

Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman have started training with the Bangladesh squad after transferring from hotel quarantine to the team’s bio-bubble for the Sri Lanka series, according to the BCB. Both players left quarantine on Monday night, 11 days after they arrived in Dhaka following the IPL’s deferment.

Initially they were supposed to be in quarantine for 14 days, in accordance with the directive by the country’s health authorities for travellers from India, which is currently suffering a massive second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The BCB’s chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury said that there was no “special considerations” being made for the two, given that they will remain in a bio-bubble all through the Sri Lanka series, which begins on May 23. Training for the series began today.

“The directive that they must practise while staying in a bio-bubble environment still stands. They are practicing while within the bio-bubble. This is not a special consideration. They have shifted from their hotel quarantine to the team’s bio-bubble,” Chowdhury said, adding that the pair had tested negative three times before joining the bubble.

The IPL sent the two players to Dhaka on a chartered flight, since air travel between the two countries has been suspended since April 14. A hard lockdown was enforced in Bangladesh since that day, following a spike in Covid-19 cases from mid-March. With India also experiencing a severe second wave, the border between the two countries was also shut from late April. Land borders were reopened earlier this month, with those crossing over into Bangladesh needing to undergo institutional quarantine for 14 days.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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Daren Sammy relinquishes captaincy at St Lucia Zouks

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Two-time World Cup winner joins Andy Flower as part of the backroom staff

Daren Sammy has stepped down from his role as St Lucia Zouks captain to become the franchise’s “T20 cricket consultant and brand ambassador” for the 2021 CPL season.

Sammy led the Zouks – who had previously reached the play-offs once in seven seasons – to the final last year, after they finished third in the league phase and then bowled Guyana Amazon Warriors out for 55 in the semi-finals.

Sammy himself faced 51 balls and bowled only three overs across his 12 appearances, and with his playing role increasingly limited, he will now join Andy Flower’s coaching staff instead.

Sammy, a two-time T20 World champion, is yet to confirm his retirement from all cricket, but has not played since the 2020 CPL final, and is now head coach at his PSL franchise, Peshawar Zalmi.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have led and been a part of the St Lucia Zouks from its inception,” Sammy said in a CPL media release. “Even though some may say good things must come to an end it will not be in this instance: St Lucia Zouks and I will always be a team.

“But since venturing into coaching, I realise I have a new passion that can allow me to still contribute and play a part in taking the franchise forward on its quest to winning a CPL title and developing future stars.”

Flower, who called Sammy an “icon of West Indies white-ball cricket” and “the heartbeat of St Lucia Zouks,” said: “He’s decided to step away from playing after an amazing career both with the West Indies, where he led the side to two T20 World Cups, but also as a really inspirational leader, full of integrity, for the island. We want to continue our partnership with Daren coming in as part ambassador, part coach, part mentor alongside me.”

The Zouks also announced the retention of seven players from their 2020 squad ahead of the upcoming season, which starts on August 28 in St Kitts: Andre Fletcher, Kesrick Williams, Rahkeem Cornwall, Roston Chase, Obed McCoy, Mark Deyal and Javelle Glen.



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South Africa cricket – AB de Villiers decides ‘his retirement will remain final’

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Last month it had emerged he was in discussions over a possible South Africa comeback with an eye on the T20 World Cup

The chances of AB de Villiers featuring in this year’s T20 World Cup have dimmed, with Cricket South Africa stating that he has decided “once and for all, that his retirement will remain final”.



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