Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2007 March 28, 2007

'Fletcher must go' - Engel

Cricinfo staff

The 2007 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack © Wisden
Matthew Engel, the editor of the 2007 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, which is published today, has called for Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, to be replaced - irrespective of England's success in this year's World Cup.

In the Notes by the Editor, his seasonal sermon in cricket's annual bible, Engel, who hands over to Scyld Berry in 2008, praises Fletcher's leadership over the past seven years but insists "it is time for renewal, and there can be no renewal without change at the top." Inevitably, England's disastrous 2006-07 Ashes campaign last winter comes under heavy fire, with Engel criticising their, and Fletcher's, complacency.

"The fact of losing was no disgrace: it is 36 years now since England last won an away series against a full-strength Australian side," he says. The manner of it was disgraceful. England were at once worn out but under-prepared; complacent yet over-apprehensive; inward-looking yet dysfunctional as a unit; closeted yet distracted."

Engel adds that Fletcher's "bubble" - the protective cotton-wooling of players - has also reached its shelf life. "There are problems living inside a bubble. Eventually the oxygen runs out," he says. "And if this one began as the Eden Project, it turned this winter into something like the Big Brother house. Accurate information rarely seeped out; it also stopped seeping in. Even experts have to keep listening and learning; Fletcher, on the evidence of the 2006-07 Ashes, just stopped."

The much-awaited Cricketers of the Year contain no real surprises. Monty Panesar and Paul Collingwood are chosen on the back of their England performances, along with veteran Surrey batsman Mark Ramprakash, after a remarkable county season, Sri Lanka's inspirational captain Mahela Jayawardene and Pakistan's prolific Mohammad Yousuf.

Alec Bedser is presented with a commemorative Almanack by Micky Stewart at the annual Wisden dinner on the 60th anniversary of his being named one of the Five Cricketers of the Year © Cricinfo/Chris Lane
Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 90 wickets in 2006 and is fast closing on 700 Test wickets, was picked as the Leading Cricketer of the Year. Anticipating a backlash from some at the decision, Simon Barnes writes: "Muralitharan is a truly great cricketer. Those that cannot go along with such a sentiment have something lacking in their souls. The spirit of cricket, perhaps."

Wisden also considers what might have been had the Leading Cricketer of the Year award been in existence from 1900. A panel of 16 writers and historians agreed on the winners for each year from then, with no restriction on how many times anyone could be chosen. Unsurprisingly, Don Bradman dominates with ten years at the top, Garry Sobers runs him a close second with eight, while Jack Hobbs, Viv Richards and Shane Warne are the only others to win more than twice. These are the same five who were named as the Cricketers of the 20th Century by Wisden seven years ago.

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