Two Bazballers in Wisden’s cricketers of the year as Nat Sciver-Brunt scoops landmark award

Mark Wood of England celebrates with Harry Brook after dismissing Mohammad Nawaz during the fourth day of the second Test between Pakistan and England at Multan Cricket Stadium on December 12, 2022
Mark Wood (right) and Harry Brook

Harry Brook and Mark Wood, two stars of England’s thrilling 2-2 Ashes draw with Australia last summer, have been named among Wisden Almanack’s Five Cricketers of the Year for 2024, with Nat Sciver-Brunt becoming the first England women’s player to be named as Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World.

The 2024 edition of Wisden, which is regarded as the sport’s bible and dates back to 1864, celebrates last year’s thrilling Ashes series. Brook scored four half-centuries in the Ashes, including a crucial 75 in England’s three-wicket victory at his home ground, Headingley. Wood returned to England’s side for the last three Tests. Bowling at speeds of up to 96mph, he took 14 wickets to help England recover from 2-0 down to square the series.

Australia’s captain Pat Cummins was named the men’s Leading Cricketer in the World after guiding his side to a historic year. Australia won the 2023 World Test Championship in June, when they defeated India at the Oval, before retaining the urn.

After losing their first two World Cup matches, Australia put together a streak of nine consecutive victories to win their sixth title, culminating in defeating hosts India at the Narendra Modi Stadium. Cummins took 2-34 in the final and took 42 Test wickets in the calendar year, more than any other fast bowler. He also made valuable contributions with the bat, including scoring 44 not out in Australia’s fraught two-wicket win in the opening Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Sciver-Brunt was named the women’s Leading Cricketer in the World. She enjoyed a remarkable year, including hitting two one-day international centuries in three days against Australia during the Ashes series, which was level 8-8 using the points system, which awards points for matches in all three formats. With Australia already holding the Ashes, they remain the holders of the urn.

No one can be named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year more than once. Ashleigh Gardner, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc, who all starred in the women’s or men’s Ashes series, also received the award, with no player recognised for their exploits in domestic English cricket. There are no limits on players being named Leading Cricketer in the World on multiple occasions.

In his Editor’s Notes, editor Lawrence Booth called on administrators to do more to safeguard the health of Test cricket around the world. The increasingly saturated global calendar has created intense pressure on the future of the Test game. In February, South Africa sent the equivalent of a C team to their series in New Zealand, with the board ruling that players could only be selected if they were unwanted for South Africa’s franchise T20 competition.

Booth called on global administrators to distribute funds according to “need, not greed” to protect the Test game, particularly highlighting the plight of West Indies. Under a new ICC distribution model, agreed last year, India will receive 38.5% of all ICC funding, while England receive 6.9%, the second highest amount. These countries already have access to lucrative broadcasting markets for their home internationals. West Indies, in contrast, are hampered by the small size of the Caribbean market, yet only receive 4.6% of ICC funding, further increasing the gap with other nations.

“In the era of global television, the West Indians have been hardest hit among the major Test teams,” Booth writes. “That made the ICC’s redistribution of funds in July all the harder to stomach.”

“An annual handout of $230m is chicken feed for India; for everyone else, it is unimaginable riches.

“Yet this is where cricket finds itself, in dreary thrall to the notion that market forces must be obeyed, while patronising the West Indian game with back-handed compliments, when what it needs is hard cash. There’s plenty of that in cricket’s central pot. Is it really beyond the wit of the administrators to distribute it according to need, not greed?”

Booth also hailed England’s dynamic cricket in the Ashes. But for rain at Old Trafford, when England were in command of the fourth Test, England might have become only the second team in Test history to win a series from 2-0 down.

“Ashes cricket has traditionally been a study in national stereotypes: Australia throw punches, England parry. But the roles were reversed last summer, and then some.

“The scoreline was almost secondary. For the first time since English cricket vanished behind a paywall, it felt like the people’s sport: Bazball was on their lips and, before long, in the Collins Dictionary.”