Sport

Cricket: Steyn, Kallis and Amla earn Wisden honours

By Ant Sims 11 April 2013

Every year, five players are named as Wisden’s cricketers of the year. It’s an honour which can only be bestowed on a player once, and this year, the biggest surprise is that Jacques Kallis never received the honour before now. By ANT SIMS.

Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis, Nick Compton and Marlon Samuels were revealed as Wisden’s five cricketers of the year on Wednesday.  It’s a high honour bestowed on only the greatest of players. Nobody can receive the honour twice, and there will be lots of hoity-toity noise about the fact that it took Kallis until now to be recognised.

The honour of being named one of the five is based primarily on the English cricket season of the year before – and up until 2012, believe it or not, Kallis’ record there had been rather poor. Prior to his exploits last year, he had played 12 Tests in England at only managed 586 runs at average of 29.30, scoring just one hundred and managing just 35 wickets at an average of  27.51. He had a good run last year, though, and while it might be surprising that such a colossal legend of the game had struggled so very much in English conditions, it’s refreshing that he has finally made good.

The Five Cricketers of the Year are chosen by the editor of Wisden, and represent a tradition that dates back to 1889, making this the oldest individual award in cricket. Excellence in, or influence on, the previous English summer are the major criteria for inclusion as a Cricketer of the Year, and there is no doubt that the men named had a serious impact.

South Africa completed a successful tour of England in 2012 as they notched up a series victory and wrestled the hosts from their perch of number one-ranked Test team in the world.

Lawrence Booth, editor of the Almanack, admitted that Kallis never being chosen before was quite possibly the only “surprise selection”.

“South Africa’s highly successful tour of England in 2012 led to three of their outstanding performers being named Cricketers of the Year. Hashim Amla was the batting sensation of the summer, gracefully compiling South Africa’s first Test triple-century, and top-scoring in eight international innings out of 11,” Booth said.

“The only surprise about the selection of Jacques Kallis was that he hadn’t been chosen earlier. At The Oval, he made 182 and balanced South Africa’s attack superbly. His all-round excellence was a crucial difference between the sides.

“Dale Steyn cemented his status as the world’s most frightening fast bowler, blowing England away on the final afternoon at The Oval, then undermining them in the Third Test at Lord’s.”

Amla scored 482 runs on that tour at a staggering average of 120.50, while Kallis managed 262 runs at an average of 65.50. Steyn, though, was fierce and ruthless, taking 15 wickets at an economy rate of 3.34 as England was crushed and South Africa put a peg in the ground to show the world that they were the best.

While the off-season is in full swing for the South Africans, it’s another fitting reminder of just what an incredible year they have had. Stalwarts and debutants alike have made their time out in the middle count, and Steyn has cemented his place as one of the best bowlers of our generation.  

Steyn himself once said, upon being prompted, that if played enough cricket, he’d keep on taking wickets. It was a brush of modesty from the paceman, and it’s the kind of reaction which evokes a shake of the head, since so many of the current crop of players seem so utterly down to earth when they could swaggering with an understandable arrogance.

Perhaps that’s the secret to success for the current crop of players. They are damn good and they know they are, but they are first and foremost a group of guys who love to play cricket. It’s a once-in-a-generation kind of thing, and with three out of five players bagging one of the biggest honours in cricket, it’s proven all over again.

The other two honoured, Samuels and Compton, were equally impressive in various aspects, and while their achievements are almost overshadowed by the three South African musketeers, one shouldn’t forget what they achieved and just how diverse cricket is when it comes to what is termed successful.

 Samuels, fresh from returning from a ban from cricket, was exceptional during the West Indies visit to England last year,  scoring 31, 86, 117, 76* and 76 in the Tests for a struggling West Indies.

He was the standout player, and while he had made his mistakes in the past, Samuels was back with a bang. There is no better place to prove your worth than in English conditions – against the then-number one ranked Test team in the world.

Compton, a South African by birth, was a cut above the rest on the county circuit, and his inclusion is the first instance of grandfather and grandson both achieving the distinction.

“Compton of Somerset and England Lions left all other county batsmen in his wake, scoring nearly 1,500 first-class runs at an average of almost 100, and earning himself a place on the winter tours of India and New Zealand. In doing so, he joined his grandfather Denis Compton, a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1939,” Booth said. DM

Photo: South Africa’s Graeme Smith (2nd R), Jacques Kallis (R), Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla (L) pose for photographers during an award ceremony after winning their first test cricket match against India in Nagpur February 9, 2010. REUTERS/Arko Datta

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