Double Wisden honour for star Sri Lanka batsman Sangakkara

April 12, 2012 - 1:08:19 am


LONDON: Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara (pictured) has been chosen as both one of the Five Cricketers of the Year and the Leading Cricketer in the World for 2011 in the 2012 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, it was announced yesterday.

The 34-year-old Sangakkara, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation and for much of his career a top-class wicketkeeper as well, became the first man to receive both awards since Wisden, ‘cricket’s bible’, started naming a leading cricketer of the year in 2004.

In 2011, no-one else came close to the 2,267 runs Sangakkara scored in all international cricket, and he is now the only man to have topped 1,000 runs in Tests and one-day internationals in a single year on three separate occasions.

The left-hander also captained Sri Lanka to the World Cup final, where they were beaten by co-hosts India in Mumbai.

Off the field, he also received worldwide praise for giving a deeply heartfelt MCC Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s which caused shockwaves in his homeland when he called for the end of political interference in Sri Lankan cricket.

Sangakkara’s career Test record of over 9,000 runs in 108 matches with 28 hundreds at an average of nearly 55 stands comparison with all but a handful of cricket’s greatest batsmen.

Wisden, published every year since 1864, is widely regarded as cricket’s leading reference work.

The Five Cricketers of the Year, chosen solely by the editor of Wisden -- the 2012 edition is English cricket journalist’s Lawrence Booth’s first as editor -- is an award that dates back to 1889. Among the other four recipients for their performances in 2011 were the England Test duo of run-hungry opener Alastair Cook, who made 294 against India at Edgbaston, and pace bowling all-rounder Tim Bresnan, yet to be on the losing side in a Test match.

Lancashire captain Glen Chapple was also honoured after leading the Old Trafford-based club to their first outright County Championship title in 77 years, as was fellow seamer Alan Richardson, who took 73 First Division wickets to help Worcestershire avoid relegation.

No one can be chosen as one of the Cricketers of the Year, based primarily on a player’s influence upon the previous English season, more than once.

Meanwhile, new editor Booth urged officials in India  to abandon the “self interest of the few” and concentrate instead upon improving their team’s Test results.

India is cricket financial’s powerhouse, with the passionate following for the sport in the world’s second most populous nation making its broadcast and commercial rights the most valuable in the game.

As a result, India is able to attract leading players from around the world to the lucrative but domestic Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.

However, five-day Test cricket is still regarded by officials and players as the ultimate form of the sport yet in 2011 India were whitewashed in a series in England before, in early 2012, suffering a similar fate in Australia.

But 2011 also saw India lift the one-day World Cup for the first time in 28 years after they triumphed on home soil to beat Sri Lanka in a final in Mumbai.

In the 2012 Wisden, Booth -- an English cricket journalist -- writes: “India have ended up with a special gift: the clout to shape an entire sport. Some national boards would struggle to survive without an Indian visit.”

He adds: “But too often their game appears driven by the self-interest of the few -- officials unable to admit that injuries collected in, or aggravated by the IPL damaged their side’s chances in England; capable of suggesting disregard for the innings defeat at Sydney in January 2012 by responding with the breathless news of the schedule for IPL 5; and happy to whitewash the whitewashes with constant reference to the World Cup.”

Booth added the rest of cricket’s leading nations were not paragons of virtue either but that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) were in a unique position.

“Other countries run the game along self-serving lines too; cricket’s boardrooms are not awash with altruism. But none wields the BCCI’s power, nor shares their responsibility.

“The disintegration of India’s feted batting line-up has coincided with the rise of a Twenty20-based nationalism, the growth of private marketeers and high-level conflicts of interest. It is a perfect storm. And the global game sits unsteadily in the eye. India, your sport needs you.”

Booth, turning his fire on officials elsewhere in the world, also said any Test series not involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the five-day game’s two weakest nations, must be for a minimum of three matches.

“At international level the administrators’ insistence on Test cricket’s primacy has been stated so often as to have lost any meaning,” he wrote. “The proof of the pudding came in a canape -- the two-Test series in November between South Africa and Australia, when a pair of classics left the players craving a decider.” REUTERS