September 16, 2009

Strauss for the title

It's hard to look beyond England's captain when you're picking the top cricketer of the last 12 months
40

Just when we thought it was safe to spend the month moaning - about the increasingly palpable shortcomings of 50-over cricket, the advent of the umpire review system, the invasiveness of drug-testing, post-Ashes fatigue, the English weather, Shane Warne's absence from the Sky Sports commentary box - along comes a timely reminder that our obsession can be, y'know, fun.

For all their randomness, and often flagrant disregard for justice, annual awards are just that. Fun. To take them too seriously, as an official arbiter of quality, is to invest them with far too much credibility. Their value is that they give us a chance to take stock, to reflect on a passage of time before it melts into that endless trail of dimly remembered events. Which is why, even though most of the final decisions will probably be forgotten before I delete the email revealing them, the announcement of the contenders for the 2009 ICC Awards exerted a hold of some fascination when I opened my inbox on Tuesday morning. Especially when it led to ruminations over the World Test XI, for what it tells us about the game's evolution.

It certainly says much for the gusts of change that the inaugural ICC Test XI, named just five years ago, featured no fewer than six men who have subsequently retired from the five-day fray - Matthew Hayden, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Chaminda Vaas, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie. Of the remainder, moreover, only two, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis, are legitimate claimants for inclusion in the 2009 XI - and neither ought to make it.

Indeed, based on performances between August 13, 2008 and August 24 this year, only Kumar Sangakkara of the 2007 XI is in with a strong shout of making October's side. Granted, injury (Brett Lee, Kevin Pietersen) and lack of opportunity (Ryan Sidebottom bowled just 59 overs) have played their part, but given that Shakib-Al-Hasan, the most consistent non-keeping allrounder, has been more important to Bangladesh's cause than Kallis has to South Africa's, it is indicative of this trend that less than half last year's XI - Graeme Smith, Mahela Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sangakkara and Dale Steyn - rank among this term's leading contenders. In other words, maintaining form is becoming an increasingly rare art. A reflection of the players' rising workload in an era of overkill? Give me a likelier cause.

In the period under scrutiny, a Test XI based purely on statistical consistency should read: Gautam Gambhir, Smith, Kumar Sangakkara (wkt), Younis Khan, VVS Laxman, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Thilan Samaraweera, Shakib, Mitchell Johnson, Graeme Swann and Peter Siddle. With Shakib supplying Bangladesh's first such candidate, this team comprises no fewer than eight nationalities, and more Sri Lankans - even without Murali - than Australians or Indians: a most welcome progression from the dynastic tyranny that gave us, every year from 2004 to 2007, a ICC World Test XI numbering at least four Australians. Load in some context, without which statistics are merely bones, and an equally potent side could be proffered: Andrew Strauss, Phillip Hughes, Michael Clarke, AB de Villiers, Ramnaresh Sarwan, JP Duminy, Matt Prior (wkt), Stuart Broad, Harbhajan Singh, Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma. Eight of these, encouragingly, have yet to complete their third decade.

Post-Stanford, post-Pietersen v Moores, Strauss took the reins when English cricket was looking sicker than John Cleese's ex-parrot. That it is now widely perceived to be in polite if not rude health is no mean feat

Because there were only six Test nations and tours were infrequent, it would be grossly unfair to draw comparisons with an XI drawn from performances over the same period 50 years ago, containing as it would players from just Australia, England and West Indies - Geoff Pullar, Colin McDonald, Rohan Kanhai, Garry Sobers, Ken Barrington, Joe Solomon, Richie Benaud (capt), Wally Grout (wkt), Fred Trueman, Wes Hall, Brian Statham. On the other hand, an XI representing the form horses of 1988-89 - Mark Taylor, Shoaib Mohammad, Richie Richardson, Javed Miandad, Martin Crowe, Robin Smith, Jack Russell (wkt), Malcolm Marshall, Arshad Ayub, Terry Alderman and Courtney Walsh - could be culled from six nations. Among those who played at least five Tests, a 1998-99 XI - Taylor, Saeed Anwar, Rahul Dravid, Daryll Cullinan, Kallis, Steve Waugh, Alec Stewart (wkt), Anil Kumble, Stuart MacGill, Walsh, Glenn McGrath - would accommodate seven nations. Eight is still a spread of talent to cherish, reflecting as it does the most gloriously unpredictable (aka competitive) period Test cricket has ever known.

The past year, after all, has seen South Africa win in England and Australia, Australia win in South Africa, England beat Australia and run India closer than the then-brand leaders managed, and West Indies beat a major player for the first time in six years, all while Sri Lanka have been clambering ever closer to the summit. The reluctance of teams to tour Pakistan remains as understandable as it is regrettable, but are these not reasons to be unfearful?

That Taylor and Walsh feature in both the 1988-89 and 1998-99 XIs is another indication, you might imagine, of our fast-changing, getting-bloody-hard-to-keep-up times. The picture is rosier than you might imagine. Of that 1998-99 side, Dravid and Kallis are still prominent; all the rest have retired. Which members of either of the aforementioned 2008-09 XIs will still be regaling us with their undimmed wares 10 years hence? Broad, Duminy, Hughes, Shakib and Sharma are all young enough, certainly. In the shorter term, it is far from fanciful to picture six batsmen and as many bowlers from the top 10s in the current Test rankings still strutting their stuff productively in 2014. But only if the Future Tours Programme undergoes some serious pruning.

THE OSCAR OF OSCARS, nonetheless, will go to the ICC Cricketer of the Year, the shortlist for which extends to just four: MS Dhoni, Johnson, Gambhir and Strauss. Graeme Smith's omission is decidedly curious, and not solely because he would be my choice. Not only is he worth a place in the World Test XI on runs alone, he also led South Africa to hoodoo-trashing series wins in Australia and England. The only plausible excuse is that the latter rubber was actually won on August 11, 2008, and hence comes narrowly outside the selectors' remit. As it is, given the nominees we have, it is fiendishly hard to look beyond Strauss.

England's captain now occupies decidedly rarefied air. Among batsmen who have led their country in upwards of 15 Tests, only five - Don Bradman, Jayawardene, Sobers, Graham Gooch and Lara - have averaged more than Strauss's 56.14. That he relishes the responsibility is encapsulated still better by the fact that, like Gooch (whose average went up 22.79 as captain) and Jayawardene (up 18.58), he has been considerably more productive with the stripes than without, lifting his mean by 15.10. That he has been England's most prolific and reliable run-maker since he reclaimed the reins for the tour of the Caribbean, at a time of huge upheaval and poor collective form, is testimony to a rare fortitude.

Lest we forget, in Napier just 18 months ago, Strauss was poised to slink back to county cricket, never to return. It was, he relates in his forthcoming book, "the only time in my life I have struggled to sleep". The key to his subsequent 177 was a first-innings duck: "With only one innings left I felt it was too much to expect to pull it out of the bag, so I was just going to enjoy my last innings for England." In other words, he relaxed. Encouraged by Paul Collingwood, he also reclaimed the cut and the pull, the once-fruitful strokes his cautious, fretful self had sheathed. As Kris Kristofferson so deftly put it, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

"More than anything, performing in those circumstances made me think that when the going gets tough, that is what motivates and brings out the best in me," reflects Strauss. "And, when you are armed with that knowledge, it gives you huge confidence for difficult times in the future." Nothing particularly earth-shattering, sure, but this realisation was no less valuable for its familiarity. Come The Oval last month - and yes, it does seem a sight longer than that - England were pulling the Ashes out of the bag. That they bounced back not once but twice in that series - from the near-disaster of Cardiff to victory at Lord's, from humiliation at Headingley to final triumph at The Oval - can be attributed to many factors, but none was more important, surely, than the tone set by Strauss, at the crease and in the field.

There is a bit of him in each of the other contenders. Like Gambhir, Strauss possesses the mental fibre and inner confidence to stare down adversity and drag a career from the precipice. Like Johnson, he can dominate opponents. Like Dhoni, he is a leader by vivid example. None of those rivals, though, has had quite as much to contend with this year as Strauss. Post-Stanford, post-Pietersen v Moores, he took the reins when English cricket was looking sicker than John Cleese's ex-parrot. That it is now widely perceived to be in polite if not rude health is no mean feat. Just don't mention the words "limited" or "overs" in close proximity.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Maxgilli on September 18, 2009, 19:42 GMT

    First of all I am an Indian, but still I am shocked and surprised to see Graeme Smith's name not included in the list. I definitely he is one of the top runners, if not the eventual winner for cricketer of the year. If Rob thinks that Strauss is the most deserving winner for Cricketer of the year, then I think he should better get a reality check. If my memmory serves right, England were pathetic in India, lost the series 0-1, even more pathetic in WI (where Strauss the leader was born), and won the Ashes not because England were superior, but the Aussies were not at their best. I am not surprised at Englishman's obsession with Ashes. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it has got to Sky Sports where they pay for every series to watch it live. So, I think most of the Englishman do not watch any cricket other than Ashes and so you cannot blame them for not knowing what is happening in the rest of the cricketing world. Spend some money Rob, or at least read newspapers. Thanks.

  • Aahd on September 18, 2009, 16:34 GMT

    There are just too many who will go by the recent result instead of the content that spanned over the whole year and it seems Mr Steen is one of them. Granted Strauss had a good time against the Aussies in the Ashes, it does not mean the rest of the cricket from the past year can be ignored. Have you forgotten AB de Villiars? Can his performance be overlooked? And didn't Smith just do what Strauss achieved as well? He wasn't playing the 'Ashes' though...he plays for South Africa...what a shame. And what about Dale Steyn? He was instrumental for SA in Australia. I really think there is more to cricket than England and Australia and they should realize that and review performances with an eye on the whole year and not just the recent events. Speaking of recent events, Mr Strauss is on the edge of a historic moment again...the first 7-0 defeat in the history of cricket. He does deserve and award for that surely...

  • Cric_Luv on September 18, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    Frankly speaking , i dont see any english cricketer winning this title atleast in near future. Except for Flintoff and Kevin there were no quality players in the team. Englan is no way near any sub-continent team or South Africa or Australia. yah for sure they can win one title, may be European player of the year. and i pity on author for his biased analysis.

  • MartinAmber on September 18, 2009, 13:12 GMT

    I can see the headline: "Captain of side whitewashed 7-0 at home takes 'Cricketer of the Year' award". And some people still wonder why the ICC are regarded with contempt.

  • Bam_Newlands on September 18, 2009, 11:10 GMT

    Absolutely PATHETIC!!! AB de Villiers hit 3 hundreds against aus and one vs england and one vs india. Worst award nominations of all time and everything

  • JB77 on September 17, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    I'm an Aussie, but I have no hesitation in saying that Graeme Smith is the top player of the last year. He captained his side superbly when they toured in Aus last year and his batting was impressive. If not him, then one of his team-mates surely. Strauss as the top cricketer of the last 12 months? Give me a break!

  • DJFUZZ on September 17, 2009, 22:37 GMT

    This is the most hilarious team ever. Rob were you watching only the ashes as far as looking at the team. Matt Prior for the keeper. The guy can't bat according to me. Then Broad in your team and even swann. Trust me you din't watch much cricket to make the this kind of team.Murali, Harbajan,Vettori. And you picked up swann..Then Broad.Don't you see other good bowlers around?..And then Dhoni VS Strauss for the cricketer of the year. If you think he is so good he should have at least won a game for England its 6-0 right now to Australia. Dhoni can win a game alone himself. Him in test and one day compared to strauss is way way better. Watch more cricket around the world to make the team rob. If he was so good England would have been in the top 3 rankings in the world but they are not, not even test or ODI's. Or strauss would have been somewhere in the rankings but he is not .

  • Davesh_cricket_analyst on September 17, 2009, 19:44 GMT

    Rob, we all will stand by Strauss if you can promise on his behalf that England - 1. Will not loose 5-0 to Australia in the next Ashes 2. Will win a test match outside England in 2010 for they couldn't do that last year. 3. Will not loose to India 5-0 in a ODI series. 4. Will win more ODIs than atleast Bangladesh.

  • MartinAmber on September 17, 2009, 19:39 GMT

    "HundredPercentBarcelonista": your comments are spot on. Yet more short memory syndrome from the ICC. Take the period as a whole and a South African or Indian should win the award. By the way, I'm English, and I feel alienated by my country's Ashes obsession when it detracts from appreciation of what goes on elsewhere. As, of course, it so often does. Strauss has had a fine year, but his captaincy (being polite) leaves much room for improvement, he was handed the Ashes initiative at Lord's by shocking bowling, he scored three hundreds on total featherbeds in the Windies (and we still lost, partly thanks to his defensive captaincy). Rob Steen is dead right that Smith should be nominated, but he'd have been better off writing an article about what Smith's omission says about the nature of the ICC.

  • Davesh_cricket_analyst on September 17, 2009, 19:38 GMT

    Rob is right. Straus for cricketer of the year, Broad for bowler of the year, Flintoff for fielder of the year, Harminson for comeback of the year and Sidebottom for no: 12 of the year.

  • Maxgilli on September 18, 2009, 19:42 GMT

    First of all I am an Indian, but still I am shocked and surprised to see Graeme Smith's name not included in the list. I definitely he is one of the top runners, if not the eventual winner for cricketer of the year. If Rob thinks that Strauss is the most deserving winner for Cricketer of the year, then I think he should better get a reality check. If my memmory serves right, England were pathetic in India, lost the series 0-1, even more pathetic in WI (where Strauss the leader was born), and won the Ashes not because England were superior, but the Aussies were not at their best. I am not surprised at Englishman's obsession with Ashes. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think it has got to Sky Sports where they pay for every series to watch it live. So, I think most of the Englishman do not watch any cricket other than Ashes and so you cannot blame them for not knowing what is happening in the rest of the cricketing world. Spend some money Rob, or at least read newspapers. Thanks.

  • Aahd on September 18, 2009, 16:34 GMT

    There are just too many who will go by the recent result instead of the content that spanned over the whole year and it seems Mr Steen is one of them. Granted Strauss had a good time against the Aussies in the Ashes, it does not mean the rest of the cricket from the past year can be ignored. Have you forgotten AB de Villiars? Can his performance be overlooked? And didn't Smith just do what Strauss achieved as well? He wasn't playing the 'Ashes' though...he plays for South Africa...what a shame. And what about Dale Steyn? He was instrumental for SA in Australia. I really think there is more to cricket than England and Australia and they should realize that and review performances with an eye on the whole year and not just the recent events. Speaking of recent events, Mr Strauss is on the edge of a historic moment again...the first 7-0 defeat in the history of cricket. He does deserve and award for that surely...

  • Cric_Luv on September 18, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    Frankly speaking , i dont see any english cricketer winning this title atleast in near future. Except for Flintoff and Kevin there were no quality players in the team. Englan is no way near any sub-continent team or South Africa or Australia. yah for sure they can win one title, may be European player of the year. and i pity on author for his biased analysis.

  • MartinAmber on September 18, 2009, 13:12 GMT

    I can see the headline: "Captain of side whitewashed 7-0 at home takes 'Cricketer of the Year' award". And some people still wonder why the ICC are regarded with contempt.

  • Bam_Newlands on September 18, 2009, 11:10 GMT

    Absolutely PATHETIC!!! AB de Villiers hit 3 hundreds against aus and one vs england and one vs india. Worst award nominations of all time and everything

  • JB77 on September 17, 2009, 22:42 GMT

    I'm an Aussie, but I have no hesitation in saying that Graeme Smith is the top player of the last year. He captained his side superbly when they toured in Aus last year and his batting was impressive. If not him, then one of his team-mates surely. Strauss as the top cricketer of the last 12 months? Give me a break!

  • DJFUZZ on September 17, 2009, 22:37 GMT

    This is the most hilarious team ever. Rob were you watching only the ashes as far as looking at the team. Matt Prior for the keeper. The guy can't bat according to me. Then Broad in your team and even swann. Trust me you din't watch much cricket to make the this kind of team.Murali, Harbajan,Vettori. And you picked up swann..Then Broad.Don't you see other good bowlers around?..And then Dhoni VS Strauss for the cricketer of the year. If you think he is so good he should have at least won a game for England its 6-0 right now to Australia. Dhoni can win a game alone himself. Him in test and one day compared to strauss is way way better. Watch more cricket around the world to make the team rob. If he was so good England would have been in the top 3 rankings in the world but they are not, not even test or ODI's. Or strauss would have been somewhere in the rankings but he is not .

  • Davesh_cricket_analyst on September 17, 2009, 19:44 GMT

    Rob, we all will stand by Strauss if you can promise on his behalf that England - 1. Will not loose 5-0 to Australia in the next Ashes 2. Will win a test match outside England in 2010 for they couldn't do that last year. 3. Will not loose to India 5-0 in a ODI series. 4. Will win more ODIs than atleast Bangladesh.

  • MartinAmber on September 17, 2009, 19:39 GMT

    "HundredPercentBarcelonista": your comments are spot on. Yet more short memory syndrome from the ICC. Take the period as a whole and a South African or Indian should win the award. By the way, I'm English, and I feel alienated by my country's Ashes obsession when it detracts from appreciation of what goes on elsewhere. As, of course, it so often does. Strauss has had a fine year, but his captaincy (being polite) leaves much room for improvement, he was handed the Ashes initiative at Lord's by shocking bowling, he scored three hundreds on total featherbeds in the Windies (and we still lost, partly thanks to his defensive captaincy). Rob Steen is dead right that Smith should be nominated, but he'd have been better off writing an article about what Smith's omission says about the nature of the ICC.

  • Davesh_cricket_analyst on September 17, 2009, 19:38 GMT

    Rob is right. Straus for cricketer of the year, Broad for bowler of the year, Flintoff for fielder of the year, Harminson for comeback of the year and Sidebottom for no: 12 of the year.

  • Optimistix on September 17, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    Rob, there is no need for a "likelier" cause, as there is no effect. Try compiling lists for each year for a long period of time, say from 1980 onwards, and I bet you'll find that the overlap between the lists of successive years is rarely more than 5.

    You aren't talkng about merely being consistently in form, but in form good enough to make the world XI in successive years.

    It's easy to blame the schedule for everything, but I don't think there's anything to be blamed for here.

    But it might be an interesting statistical exercise to figure out how many people were in the top 10 for more than half of their career, or longest "streaks", etc. etc.

  • StaalBurgher on September 17, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    @ilovetest - You make a good point with Vettori. Good batting average! That is a world class all-rounders stats those. He often suffers due to his middling team. Dhoni's success as captain has been 75%+ at home. Let us first see what he does in Aus, SA and Eng and then we can talk again. Netiher does his stats back him up. There are at least 5 other cricketers that could take his place. Far too much hype if you ask me. I didn't realise Gambhir scored that many runs, but once again those were mostly home games and a few "easy" away games, still well done and should put him in the running, but you need to take Smith's performances in context - several massive, match-winning, series-record-breaking centuries.

  • ChintuBangSachFan on September 17, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    Somehow Sachin Tendulkar is missing from 1998-99 list, which incidentally was his best year. And Daryll Cullinan manages to get in. Dravid who had not reached his peak yet gets in. God knows what was the brilliant criteria the author came up with

  • youfoundme on September 17, 2009, 3:48 GMT

    This is all wrong, Daniel Vettori has been the best performing player and deserves the award more than anyone.

  • HundredPercentBarcelonista on September 16, 2009, 21:24 GMT

    Should we discount the fact that Strauss led an English side that lost a test series in the Caribbean? He botched up two declarations that resulted in his side running out of time with the Windies 9 down in Antigua and 8 down in Trinidad. He's not part of the Twenty20 side and while he's done well in 50-over cricket his side has still struggled. If this were an award for the Test Player of the Year then Strauss would definitely be one of the frontrunners. But that is not the case.

    I'd like to nominate Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers. Each of them has a more solid case than Andrew Strauss or Mitchell Johnson.

  • amdtelrunya on September 16, 2009, 20:33 GMT

    Oh dear this guy is completely obsessed with the Ashes. Most other people outside the UK and Australia see it as an interesting series but not as it was 4 years ago between the world's two top teams. You would have to rate India, SA and Sri Lanka at home above these two. How can Prior be the keeper? He is a good batsman but a hopeless keeper, just about any other keeper in world cricket is better, does the author not remember he let through a near world record of byes in the WI? The inclusion of Swann and Broad is the same. Apart from Broad's one 5 wicket haul he was an average bowler all year, and there were better allrounders around. As for spinners, surely Vettori, Muralitharan and Harbajjan are streaks ahead. As for Hughes, he basically only played one series. Come on. Siddle maybe deserves to be there.

  • ilovetests on September 16, 2009, 20:30 GMT

    Most of you are commenting on captains who should be player of the year: Strauss, Smith, and Dhoni. Rob also paid a special mention to how the former has performed as captain (averaging 56.14). Anyway, I have another captain to throw into the mix as the best in the world: Daniel Vettori. Stats don't lie. He has been the world's best ODI and T20 bowler for the past 2-3 years (or no. 2 behind Bracken) but look at his TEST performances. In the last 12 months he has played 11 tests and taken 46 wickets in averaging 28.36 with the ball. He has also scored 747 runs in averaging 49.80 with the bat. HIs overall averages as captain are 31.14 (bowling) and 42.82 (batting). That has been done in a team that is struggling and thus trumps anything achieved by Messrs. Strauss, Smith, and Dhoni.

  • RomanNoseJob on September 16, 2009, 20:07 GMT

    someone worthy is going to miss out. Strauss has had an excellent year and has carried the england team valiantly (and sometimes plodded onwards without them when they just proved impossibly heavy) Gambhir has been the showman, he's just played knock after knock of sheer quality, against all-comers, in someways he's been too good because he's taken the game away from so many opponents before the match was anywhere near finished it's looked like india have strolled to wins in the games he's played well. I think Samaraweera is as unlucky as Smith to miss out though. He's just compiled runs in the manner you would expect Australians at their peak to do, if anyone was wondering where on earth the formerly impeccable Hussey's form had gone, by the looks of things, it's ended up in a right handed Sri Lankan.

  • Nipun on September 16, 2009, 17:39 GMT

    @ Kheruvim :- It's not a question of choosing Indian players.I agree that Strauss has had a tremendous year,but hasn't Dhoni outperformed him ? Dhoni might not have a test average of 60 in the period considered,but his test statistics for the period are awesome too.& I believe Dhoni has clearly outperformed Strauss in ODIs.Strauss has had a good year in ODIs in his standards.However,Dhoni's record as captain is awesome too,& he has clearly transformed India to an excellent team.Sachin Tendulkar used to fail final after final under Sourav;under Dhoni,he cracks wonderful hunderds!His monumental impact on this Indian team is intangible,& it's a pity that it can't be measured.I am also disappointed for Shakib;I believe he's been outstanding in both forms of the game in the period considered;it's just that he's a Bangladeshi which has resulted in his dropping from the list.45 wickets in 8 tests(or 13 innings to be exact)& a batting average of about 30-phenomenal!

  • promal on September 16, 2009, 14:56 GMT

    It's interesting to note how NONE of Rob Steen's annual XIs contain any of the names of the 3 greatest batsmen of the '90s and '00s! They would make it to ANY team in the last 20 or even 50 years, but all of a sudden, they seem to be missing from those mentioned by Steen. Strange........ For those who might be wondering who, I of course refer to Ponting, Lara and Tendulkar.

  • TwitterJitter on September 16, 2009, 14:47 GMT

    There are no guidelines for giving these awards and are hence highly subjective and every body will draw on their own parameters on which give these awards and these parameters keep changing. I don't put much weight on who wins these awards unless there is a runaway winner. Mostly, it should be lokked at as a means of recongnizing a group of cricketers whose performance over a range of parameters stood out. Some of these averages are dubious at best. If a batsman scores 179 not out in a drawn match and another scores 159 and leads his team to victory in the process whose performance is better? Stats would say the former but naked eye would say otherwise.

  • NBZ1 on September 16, 2009, 14:17 GMT

    Rob, your side from 50 years ago is not chosen from the 1958-59 season is it? Because that was the season when Australia won the Ashes 4-0. Not including Alan Davidson (180 runs and 24 wickets in the Ashes) while having both Statham (12) and Truman (9) seems a bit extraordinary.

    As for the Cricketer of the Year debate, the one thing that amazes me is the fact that so many people are rooting for Dhoni, especially when you have someone as consistent as Gambhir in the mix. It's not Captain of the Year folks (and even there Smith would give Dhoni a run for his money). As a player, Dhoni probably hasn't done enough over the year. As for the other issues, the omission of Smith/AB is puzzling, but so is that of Michael Clarke! 1440 runs @53.33 since August last year, in some of the toughest series you can imagine- away to India, SA and England, and home to SA. Compare that with Gambhir (who did play Aus and Eng but at home, while playing NZ away) and you have an excellent candidate.

  • abinanthan on September 16, 2009, 13:59 GMT

    Check these stats, you can obviously see the winner.

    Gambhir scored centuries against Aus(2), Eng(2), NZ(1). Strauss scored centuries against Aus(1), Ind(2), WI(3).

    Name Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Gambhir 8 1269 206 84.60 5 Strauss 14 1323 169 60.14 6

  • cricketblood on September 16, 2009, 13:12 GMT

    Well, well. I understand you are quite an Englishman. But I see no Tendulkar, the highest ever run scorer in tests anywhere and I also see Dilshan and Shakib in your test team. For your kind attention, Shakib has played test series against NZ and a depleted WI. The series against NZ was in his home conditions and NZ's vulnerability to spin bowling is well known. Come on man, don't be nuts to ignore Murali for Shakib. Let him perform against some of the better teams. Speaking of Strauss, I think he cannot be better than Gambhir. Remember, this his is comeback year to test cricket and he has done great against a fully potent, Mendis and Murali unleashed SL, a competent Aussie attack(though not dominative), a great effort in NZ considering India's record in NZ and nobody can forget the frustration he showed when he got out after completing a 200 in the second innings in NZ and after he had done his job for the side. That really shows his hunger and sportsmanship. For me, Gambhir-C O year

  • shakenbake on September 16, 2009, 11:59 GMT

    Now, now, Rob! I'm sure part of your critique is probably based on hits or comments received on a piece, but honestly, you are way off the mark on this one. The worst (by a long way) of the 4 nominees is Mr Stand-in captain Strauss. What matters most when dismissing stats alone as criteria is the when, where and how of the performances. Hence, scoring runs against the WI and a ordinary Aus attack in those situations says very little. Saying that though I do agree with you one point...Smith was robbed! Anyway, money talks and by now it isn't a surprise to anyone that anything Indian or Ashes always wins out.

  • ASK3 on September 16, 2009, 11:41 GMT

    anybody has a chance to win the award. Dhoni, Gambhir, Strauss,Sangakkara. these 4 have performed extremely well in the past year. as an Indian, i hope that Dhoni or Gambhir win it, but these four played well and deserve something in reward. (just cause i'm Indian doesn't mean that i'm including 2 Indians, it's just that i can't remember the others.)

  • Santanu1913 on September 16, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    Dear Rob, I understand why its difficult to look beyong Strauss. You guys are too obbsessed with Ashes. There's a world outside as well. Scraping through a down the wane Australia 2-1 is by no means a great achievement. Think about facing Sri Lanka in their den....think about facing India in India...England will be vanished....wake up Mr. Rob and see beyond Ashes....face the reality...I bet Bangladesh will defeat them if they tour bangladesh now...

  • SamRoy on September 16, 2009, 11:12 GMT

    Well I can't agree with most of the responses. For Cricketer of the Year it is very difficult to look beyond Graeme Smith; that's because of the reasons you have already mentioned. MSD (like Hussey and Bevan) bloats his one-day average by staying not out though has improved his test batting but does not dominate the bowling as he used to. Strauss did not play one dayers (until very recently) and does not play Twenty20. Gambhir has had a great run in tests and ODIs but had a poor Twenty20 World Cup and was seen scratching in the subsequent ODIs in West Indies. Johnson was awesome against SA and ordinary ( at times horrendous ) against England. If this is the case why not have someone who generally has had an excellent year with the bat AB DeVilliers!!!!! Even Dilshan had an excellent year but DeVilliers tops as a player(in all forms of the game).

  • Kirstenfan on September 16, 2009, 10:35 GMT

    Absolute rubbish that SA doesn't have a player nominated in any category! Smith has led SA to number 1 in tests and ODIs, as you said won those series in Eng and Aus, scored buckets of runs! AB scored 3 test hundreds against Aus, Steyn is number 1 bowler and has done brilliantly, how is Duminy not one of the newcomers of the year in test cricket (compared to Ryder who started playing before the year anyway!)

    Shows some serious Aus / India bias. Give credit where it is due.

    Bu the way, Gambhir ad Dhoni (and bowl short and wide Sharma) are the three most over rated cricketers for a long time.

  • ed.dixon on September 16, 2009, 10:03 GMT

    Statsguru figures for 08/09 season:

    Strauss 793 runs at 72 (5 x 100s) Sangakara 408 at 58.2 (1) Gambhir 1269 at 84.6 (5) Smith 581 at 64.5 (2) Dhoni 544 at 54.5 (0)

    Statistically the top two on the figures above are Gambhir and Strauss. I guess the judges have to take into account the different roles within the team and the different conditions surrounding the teams and the tests they played. I have to admit I had not realised Gambhir had done quite so well this year and being a blinkered Englishman would probably have plumped for Strauss, but it's not a clear cut choice when you look at the numbers.

  • JGG32 on September 16, 2009, 9:50 GMT

    As with most posts, people are being very biased to their own nation and I am no differents so cant blame you! What I will say in defence of Strauss is that he has performed as an opener consistantly in both forms of the game (not easy, though Gambir has to too) and has been the only consistant performer in a very hot/cold team where no one else puts their hand up on a regular basis. Compare this to Johnson who is backed up by 3 good bowlers and can bowl poorly and still get wickets (see Ashes) and Gambir/Dhoni who have what is possibly still the best middle order in the world in Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman to support them!! I suppose what I am saying is Strauss has to perform every game, when he doesnt England fall flat on their faces (see Jamaica and Edgbaston) which also makes captaining the team alot more difficult. Finally England and Australia have played alot more cricket overseas than India (6 subcontinent 2 away tests, 15 subcont 9 away ODIs), read into that what you will!

  • StaalBurgher on September 16, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    Look Strauss has done well in the last bit, but as has been said already England won an Ashes against an Aussie outfit that gave it away. England won so congrats for that, but that is one rather misleading victory. They will have a nice surprise in SA soon - their smugness in the office is irking me already. What else did they do? Shambolic 20/20, drew in WI. Graeme Smith should have his spot and then win considering all he has led the South African team too... oft times leading from the front with the bat. As for Dhoni, who is also a good candidate, but unforunately all his Test exploits as captain comes from short home series' so far + 20/20 disaster. Smith won two tough away series and lost 1 home while having his hand broken twice! We also lost in 20/20 of course but well Pakistan just played magnificently.

  • Kheruvim on September 16, 2009, 9:22 GMT

    Oh dear, Rob does not choose an Indian player and suddenly he is evil personified... ;-)

    Nipun: how has MS Dhoni emphatically overcome the performances of Strauss. In the time in question Strauss has played 14 Tests amassing 1323 runs at 60.13 and made 6 centuries including two in one match in India, 3 in the West Indies, and 1 in the Ashes against the then World Number 1 Test Nation, and ended up leading run-scorer. For a player usually derided and generally left out of Limited Over matches, he has a healthy average of 43 in ODIs and hit a century. Hmmm, yes Strauss has done nothing in the past year.

  • Valliappankm on September 16, 2009, 9:07 GMT

    Its hard to look beyond Strauss because you are finding it hard to look beyond Ashes! Agreed, England had a bad time to counter post-Stanford, post-KP-Moores issues, and I wouldnt have minded Strauss being the one, but for two shortcomings.. The quality of Ashes, which was one of the worst in recent times.. (considering the last coupla decades of Ashes, we were treated with Mcgrath and Warnie specials). So its more of Aussies losing it than English winning it. And second, common, this guy is not even a regular in their one-day set-up.. ( Hes the captain more so because of the lack of anyone else qualified to lead)

  • Charindra on September 16, 2009, 7:56 GMT

    Wouldn't it be great if there was some equality in the cricketing world, and Sri Lanka played as many matches as England, Australia or India? I reckon Samaraweera would have been the test cricketer of the year and dilshan the one day cricketer of the year and Sangakkara might actually have had a shot at cricketer of the year.... Oh well, the big four dictates who plays who, and a wonderful team like Sri Lanka ends up suffering from a lack of international matches....

  • prashnottz on September 16, 2009, 7:48 GMT

    1. I am surprised at the exclusion of Sachin Tendulkar in your 1998-99 list. Considering he was easily the best batsman in the world during that time, till about 2000. 2. Strauss qualifies primarily as a batsman alone. As a captain, what exactly has he done? Won a 2-1 home series win over a resurrecting Australia? MSD has done much more than that, with series wins over Australia, New Zealand and England. He has won all but one tests he has captained so far. Add to this the ODI successes and he certainly has the claim for the top prize.

  • ganeshholla.v on September 16, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    Wow..wow..what tone are you talking about??? I think England has started losing again...read 5 ODI losses to Australia...don't think it is a great tone being set by Mr.Strauss!!! And yes..agree with @g2311..you guys have to come out of Ashes..it is not 'be all and end all' of it...you got to go out there and put up a fight against 8 other International teams..unless you do that, nobody from this England team can be considered for ICC awards!!! Sorry mate...

  • redneck on September 16, 2009, 7:19 GMT

    rob mate come on england toured india for 2 tests!!! they drew one and lost the next. look at australias first 2 tests of their indian tour they pushed india close in the first one just as england did in theirs, then lost their second! hardly what you could call running india closer than what australia did! give england a 4 test tour of india i recon 2-0 would be a good achievement for the poms, more relisticly 3-0! funny that you didnt mention the 1-0 loss to the west indies that occured after that!

  • Nipun on September 16, 2009, 7:09 GMT

    Biased.MS Dhoni deserves the title.Andrew Strauss has done nothing apart from leading The English to a lucky 2-1 Ashes win.His performances have been emphatically overcome by MS.

  • g2311 on September 16, 2009, 4:44 GMT

    Rob.. u r being short sighted by not looking beyond the ashes.. let me remind you cricketer of the year means both one-dayers and tests.. and ofcourse it's not only about Ashes. Crickete rof the year should land up in the laps of either Gambhir or Dhoni .. with former having better chances. Having said that I believe selectors too won't be looking only at Ashes ( let me remind them only two countries paly it.)

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  • g2311 on September 16, 2009, 4:44 GMT

    Rob.. u r being short sighted by not looking beyond the ashes.. let me remind you cricketer of the year means both one-dayers and tests.. and ofcourse it's not only about Ashes. Crickete rof the year should land up in the laps of either Gambhir or Dhoni .. with former having better chances. Having said that I believe selectors too won't be looking only at Ashes ( let me remind them only two countries paly it.)

  • Nipun on September 16, 2009, 7:09 GMT

    Biased.MS Dhoni deserves the title.Andrew Strauss has done nothing apart from leading The English to a lucky 2-1 Ashes win.His performances have been emphatically overcome by MS.

  • redneck on September 16, 2009, 7:19 GMT

    rob mate come on england toured india for 2 tests!!! they drew one and lost the next. look at australias first 2 tests of their indian tour they pushed india close in the first one just as england did in theirs, then lost their second! hardly what you could call running india closer than what australia did! give england a 4 test tour of india i recon 2-0 would be a good achievement for the poms, more relisticly 3-0! funny that you didnt mention the 1-0 loss to the west indies that occured after that!

  • ganeshholla.v on September 16, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    Wow..wow..what tone are you talking about??? I think England has started losing again...read 5 ODI losses to Australia...don't think it is a great tone being set by Mr.Strauss!!! And yes..agree with @g2311..you guys have to come out of Ashes..it is not 'be all and end all' of it...you got to go out there and put up a fight against 8 other International teams..unless you do that, nobody from this England team can be considered for ICC awards!!! Sorry mate...

  • prashnottz on September 16, 2009, 7:48 GMT

    1. I am surprised at the exclusion of Sachin Tendulkar in your 1998-99 list. Considering he was easily the best batsman in the world during that time, till about 2000. 2. Strauss qualifies primarily as a batsman alone. As a captain, what exactly has he done? Won a 2-1 home series win over a resurrecting Australia? MSD has done much more than that, with series wins over Australia, New Zealand and England. He has won all but one tests he has captained so far. Add to this the ODI successes and he certainly has the claim for the top prize.

  • Charindra on September 16, 2009, 7:56 GMT

    Wouldn't it be great if there was some equality in the cricketing world, and Sri Lanka played as many matches as England, Australia or India? I reckon Samaraweera would have been the test cricketer of the year and dilshan the one day cricketer of the year and Sangakkara might actually have had a shot at cricketer of the year.... Oh well, the big four dictates who plays who, and a wonderful team like Sri Lanka ends up suffering from a lack of international matches....

  • Valliappankm on September 16, 2009, 9:07 GMT

    Its hard to look beyond Strauss because you are finding it hard to look beyond Ashes! Agreed, England had a bad time to counter post-Stanford, post-KP-Moores issues, and I wouldnt have minded Strauss being the one, but for two shortcomings.. The quality of Ashes, which was one of the worst in recent times.. (considering the last coupla decades of Ashes, we were treated with Mcgrath and Warnie specials). So its more of Aussies losing it than English winning it. And second, common, this guy is not even a regular in their one-day set-up.. ( Hes the captain more so because of the lack of anyone else qualified to lead)

  • Kheruvim on September 16, 2009, 9:22 GMT

    Oh dear, Rob does not choose an Indian player and suddenly he is evil personified... ;-)

    Nipun: how has MS Dhoni emphatically overcome the performances of Strauss. In the time in question Strauss has played 14 Tests amassing 1323 runs at 60.13 and made 6 centuries including two in one match in India, 3 in the West Indies, and 1 in the Ashes against the then World Number 1 Test Nation, and ended up leading run-scorer. For a player usually derided and generally left out of Limited Over matches, he has a healthy average of 43 in ODIs and hit a century. Hmmm, yes Strauss has done nothing in the past year.

  • StaalBurgher on September 16, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    Look Strauss has done well in the last bit, but as has been said already England won an Ashes against an Aussie outfit that gave it away. England won so congrats for that, but that is one rather misleading victory. They will have a nice surprise in SA soon - their smugness in the office is irking me already. What else did they do? Shambolic 20/20, drew in WI. Graeme Smith should have his spot and then win considering all he has led the South African team too... oft times leading from the front with the bat. As for Dhoni, who is also a good candidate, but unforunately all his Test exploits as captain comes from short home series' so far + 20/20 disaster. Smith won two tough away series and lost 1 home while having his hand broken twice! We also lost in 20/20 of course but well Pakistan just played magnificently.

  • JGG32 on September 16, 2009, 9:50 GMT

    As with most posts, people are being very biased to their own nation and I am no differents so cant blame you! What I will say in defence of Strauss is that he has performed as an opener consistantly in both forms of the game (not easy, though Gambir has to too) and has been the only consistant performer in a very hot/cold team where no one else puts their hand up on a regular basis. Compare this to Johnson who is backed up by 3 good bowlers and can bowl poorly and still get wickets (see Ashes) and Gambir/Dhoni who have what is possibly still the best middle order in the world in Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman to support them!! I suppose what I am saying is Strauss has to perform every game, when he doesnt England fall flat on their faces (see Jamaica and Edgbaston) which also makes captaining the team alot more difficult. Finally England and Australia have played alot more cricket overseas than India (6 subcontinent 2 away tests, 15 subcont 9 away ODIs), read into that what you will!