Following a landmark year for the women's game, in which the most high-profile Women's World Cup ever was won by England in a thrilling climax in front of a packed house at Lord's, 2018 has begun with another ground-breaking accolade. Anya Shrubsole, whose six-wicket haul led England to victory over India in the final, has become the first woman to feature on the cover of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
Shrubsole is pictured in the familiar primrose hues of the Almanack, holding the Women's World Cup aloft at Lord's. Her spell of five wickets in 22 balls had ripped the trophy from India's hands, as England held on for a nine-run win amid scenes of high drama.
It was seen as a watershed moment for the sport, following the advent of professional contracts and increased profile of competitions such as the Kia Super League and Women's Big Bash League. Lawrence Booth, editor of Wisden, said that Shrubsole was the standout candidate to be showcased on the 2018 edition, which will be published in April.
"The choice of Anya Shrubsole as Wisden's cover star for 2018 was reassuringly easy," Booth said. "She'd bowled the spell that won England the World Cup, so in my mind it was going to take something pretty extraordinary to topple her from the perch. And the fact that she wasn't a token pick was important.
"Women's cricket underwent a revolution in 2017, so if we weren't going to reflect that with a photo of an English cricketer brandishing a global trophy, we might as well have given up and said cricket is for men only and always will be. The old-school pick might have been Steve Smith, but cricket has moved beyond that now. Anya was thrilled when I told her, and to judge by the instant reaction on Twitter this morning a lot of people are thrilled on her behalf."
In a similar move, Wisden India has chosen to put two members of the India side who made it to the Women's World Cup final - a high-fiving Sushma Verma and Shikha Pandey - on the cover of its 2018 edition.
The tradition of putting a photo on the sleeve of the Almanack only began in 2003, with Virat Kohli last year's cover star. In 2009, Claire Taylor became the first female to be named one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, awarded for performances during the preceding English summer. A number of players from the side led by Heather Knight, including Shrubsole and star allrounder Nat Sciver, are potential recipients in 2018.