'Bully' books big honour (1 April 1999)

1 April 1999

'Bully' books big honour

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph

Ian Austin was today named as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year for 1998.

It crowns a spectacular spell for the 32-year-old Lancashire all-rounder who figured prominently in the Red Rose NatWest Trophy-Sunday League double last season and made his England one-day debut.

Wisden is regarded as the bible of cricket and the awards as one of the greatest accolades in the game. Usually they are reserved for Test stars, but 'Bully' is the third Lancashire player in the last 15 years to receive his on other credentials.

Jack Simmons, now Lancashire chairman, and former Old Trafford skipper David Hughes were the others in 1985 and 1988.

Like Simmons, Austin was selected because he was an outstanding figure in a sea of county cricket anonymity - Hughes was honoured for the impact he made in his first season as captain.

Wisden editor Matthew Engel explained: "The current generation is the most anonymous in history. Players hide behind their helmets and their agents, cocooned in their dressing rooms, understanding little of either cricket's unimportance, or its importance. English county professionals are becoming increasingly assertive in small ways, but as a group, they have failed miserably in projecting themselves.

"Old Wisdens are full of the names who were local heroes even if they never played international cricket. Nowadays it is a rarity for someone to come along and establish a special rapport even with his home crowd. Ian Austin is the exception.

"He is Lancashire to the marrow. When he succeeds there is a special cheer in the Old Trafford pavilion because they regard him as one of their own. There ought to be dozens like him, but there aren't. That's why he is a Cricketer of the Year."

Simmons said: "I'm thrilled for him. The fans love him - you can hear the buzz when he is handed the ball or comes out to bat."

Muttiah Muralitharan, the controversial Sri Lankan spinner who faces Austin in the World Cup opener on May 14 and later links up with him in the Lancashire side, is another Cricketer of the Year along with Arjuna Ranatunga, Jonty Rhodes and Darren Gough.

But Austin, currently with England in Lahore, is the big surprise.

The Haslingden hero is now in an elite group of 502 who have been selected by Wisden since 1898, and the name Ian David Austin now stands with the game's all-time greats.

Wisden has claimed that a form of racial segregation is affecting the game.

Matthew Engel, editor Wisden, claims that "cricketing apartheid" has become "accepted practice" in England.

He also argues that English cricket should be benefiting more from the influx of post-war immigrants from India, Pakistan and the West Indies.

"In an informal, unspoken, very English way, cricketing apartheid has become an accepted practice in England," claims Engel.

"The anti-racist banner has been picked up, but mainly by people whose love of sloganising far exceeds their love of the game. This does not invalidate their essential point.

Source :: Lancashire Evening Telegraph (http://www.reednews.co.uk/let/)