Former West Indies captain Jason Holder, who came in for universal acclaim when he led the first international cricket tour amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been named as one of Wisden’s five Cricketers of the Year.
Holder joins England batsmen Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan and Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens in being given a stamp of approval in the esteemed almanack’s slightly condensed 158th edition.
Stevens, who turns 45 later this month, is the oldest recipient since Ewart Astill in 1933 for an honour bestowed just once in a career, usually reserved for those who have shone during the preceding English domestic season.
While Holder’s six-for at the Ageas Bowl last July put the Windies on course for a win in the first Test after the outbreak of Covid-19 led to a global shutdown of sport, the mere fact they made the trip was an outright success.
At the time the UK was among the worst-affected nations, but the flexibility of Holder’s side facilitated the return of international cricket as they agreed to travel and spend two months in restrictive ‘bio-secure’ bubbles.
They may have departed these shores with a 2-1 defeat but there was endless gratitude from administrators and players alike at the end of a series where the teams showed their support for Black Lives Matter by taking a knee.
The symbolic act – spearheaded by the Windies and Holder, in particular – before each of the three Tests was a powerful image in cricket, with each member of the touring party raising gloved right fists for added significance.
Holder has since been superseded as Test captain by Kraigg Brathwaite but the integrity he showed while leading his side in an environment made all the more challenging by coronavirus did not go unnoticed by Wisden.
Sibley shed 12kg during lockdown before recording two fifties and an obdurate hundred last summer, amassing 615 Test runs across the whole of 2020 at an impeccable average of 47.3 to cement his place at the top of the order.
It has been feast or famine for the Warwickshire opener recently and the same can be said for England team-mate Crawley, who topped the Test run-charts last summer largely thanks to a breathtaking 267 against Pakistan.
Crawley’s remarkable innings – his first three-figure score in an England shirt – saw him join Len Hutton, Garry Sobers, Donald Bradman and Graeme Smith as the only batsmen to register 250 or more in a Test before turning 23.
Rizwan’s swift stumping ended the Kent batsman’s knock before even more records tumbled and the gloveman’s deft handiwork and a couple of timely half-centuries in Pakistan’s 1-0 defeat led to him being recognised by Wisden.
According to the publication, Stevens, who last week became the oldest County Championship centurion since 1986, sealed his status as one of domestic cricket’s “most unsung heroes” with 29 wickets at 15 in the Bob Willis Trophy.
At 44 years and 350 days, the evergreen Stevens is the fourth-oldest recipient on record of a Wisden gong, behind only Astill, the great WG Grace and Lord Hawke.
For the second year in a row, England’s talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, whose broken finger means he will miss the rest of the latest edition of the Indian Premier League, has been named Wisden’s leading male cricketer.
Stokes underlined his status as one of the modern greats in 2019 and followed it up with some impressive numbers last year, racking up 767 runs at 51.13 in 13 matches across all formats, adding 25 wickets at 18.84.
Beth Mooney, who scooped player of the tournament as Australia retained their Women’s T20 World Cup title 13 months ago, has unsurprisingly been named the female cricketer of the year.