England pair Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley join veteran Darren Stevens among Wisden Cricketers of the Year

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Will Macpherson
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Zak Crawley celebrates reaching his double-century against Pakistan in August (Getty Images)
Zak Crawley celebrates reaching his double-century against Pakistan in August (Getty Images)

There was double delight for Kent as Wisden named Darren Stevens and Zak Crawley – who are 21 years apart in age – among its five Cricketers of the Year.

The 2021 Wisden Almanack, the 158th edition, is published on Thursday. Reflecting the cricket-light year it was written in, editor Lawrence Booth notes that it is around 20% shorter than last year’s version – although longer than any before 1980.

As ever, Wisden have dished out a series of honours, with perhaps the most surprising going to the former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who became the 11th winner of the Wisden Cricket Photograph of the Year, for his snap of an early morning game in Rajasthan last September.

The Five Cricketers of the Year are decided by the editor, Booth, reflecting performances in the English summer, and can only be awarded to an individual once. They are: England batsmen Crawley and Dom Sibley, veteran all-rounder Stevens, West Indies’ all-rounder Jason Holder, and Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.

Crawley and Sibley excelled in their first home summers as Test cricketers, with the former scoring 267 against Pakistan and the latter making a century against West Indies.

Holder captained West Indies on the tour to England, the first Test cricket played in the pandemic and inside biosecure bubbles, while also making a considerable stand on matters of race. Rizwan was the outstanding player in the summer’s other Test series, against Pakistan, where his sharp keeping and lively batting stood out.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The choice of Stevens will delight all followers of the county game, not just those of Kent. Aged 44, having made his first-class debut in 1997, he took 29 wickets at 15.5. That included three more five-wicket hauls, taking his tally in first-class cricket to 29 – all of them coming since his 35th birthday. Just last week, he scored his 35th first-class century, too.

For the first time since 2017, there is no female cricketer among the Wisden Five, which reflects the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on the women’s game, with West Indies finally touring at the end of the English summer. Australia’s Beth Mooney, Player of the Tournament at the T20 World Cup in March, is named Leading Women’s Cricketer in the World.

The England all-rounder Ben Stokes won the equivalent men’s award for the second year running, while Keiron Pollard was named the Leading T20 Cricketer in the World.

In his Editor’s Notes, Booth praises the ECB’s handling of the pandemic, but laments the game’s relationship with race.

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