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Joe Root named Wisden's leading cricketer in the world after stellar 2021

Ollie Robinson, Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma, Dane van Niekerk and Devon Conway named as Five Cricketers of the Year

Joe Root scored his 23rd Test hundred, England vs India, 3rd Test, Leeds, 2nd day, August 26, 2021

Joe Root scored 1708 runs at 61.00 in the 2021 calendar year  •  Getty Images

Joe Root, England's outgoing Test captain, has been named as the Leading Cricketer in the World in the 2022 edition of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, which is published on Thursday.
Root, who stood down last week after an England record 64 Tests in charge, follows in the footsteps of his team-mate Ben Stokes, who claimed the honour in 2020 and 2021. Root's run of outstanding personal performances included a haul of 1,708 runs at 61.00 in 15 Tests in 2021, but he has been powerless to prevent a run of form in which England have now won just one of their last 17 Tests.
"Root rose above the struggles of England's Test side to produce one of the all-time great performances in a calendar year," Lawrence Booth, Wisden's editor, said. "His 1,708 runs have been beaten only by Mohammad Yousuf in 2006 and Viv Richards in 1976, and included six hundreds. And he scored his runs in his fifth year as England captain, at which point many of his predecessors had already called it a day."
England played India in eight Tests home and away in 2021, losing five and winning two with a solitary draw at Trent Bridge. And as a consequence, two of India's stand-out players, Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma, have been named among Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year - an honour which can be won just once in a player's career, and is determined chiefly by their impact on the English home season.
"Jasprit Bumrah was central to India's two Test wins last summer, taking three for 33 on the final afternoon at Lord's, then thrillingly bowling Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow in successive overs to hasten his team to victory at The Oval," Booth says. "Had rain not washed out the last day of the First Test at Trent Bridge, his nine wickets there might have led to an Indian win, too. In all, he managed 18 wickets at 20 apiece in the four Tests, and scored some unexpected - and crucial - tailend runs.
"Rohit Sharma was at the heart of his side's 2-1 lead over England, and played starring roles with the bat at Lord's, where he made an elegant 83 in treacherous conditions, and at The Oval, where his superb 127 helped India overcome a first-innings deficit of 99," Booth added. "His series tally of 368 runs at 52 was higher than any of his team-mates."
There were two other overseas recipients among the Five: New Zealand's opener Devon Conway, whose 200 on debut at Lord's set the tone for their 1-0 series win, ahead of their World Test Championship final victory over India at the Ageas Bowl in June; and the South Africa allrounder Dane van Niekerk, who captained Oval Invincibles to victory in the inaugural Women's Hundred - a competition which Booth said had "changed the face of women's cricket in England".
England's solitary Cricketer of the Year is Ollie Robinson, who made his mark as an incisive seam bowler with 28 wickets at 19.60 in his maiden home season, but whose debut against New Zealand was overshadowed by off-field controversy.
"On the second morning of the summer's first Test, Ollie Robinson returned to fine leg, earning applause from spectators: less than rapturous, more than polite, it sounded like a show of support," Booth wrote. "The previous evening, he had read out an apology after old tweets surfaced in which he insulted Muslims, women and Asians. And a few hours before that, he and other England players lined up wearing anti-discrimination T-shirts. For the ECB, scrambling to be on the right side of history, the timing was horrific."
English cricket's racism scandal is a major theme of this year's Almanack, which includes a piece from Azeem Rafiq, the former player whose claims of discrimination at Yorkshire culminated in his emotional testimony before a parliamentary select committee in November. In his Notes by the Editor, Booth lays into what he terms England's "annus horriblis", and calls for the ECB chief executive Tom Harrison to return his share of a £2.1 million bonus for the board's senior staff.
"Can there ever have been a bigger gap between what English cricket hoped to be, and what it was - between reality and fantasy?" Booth wrote. "Early in 2022, a long-planned assault on the Ashes ended with all-out surrender… Before that, a racism scandal brought to light by the courage of Azeem Rafiq made the game look unwelcoming, and worse. There was little to cherish.
"For overseeing the launch of The Hundred, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison and a few lucky colleagues stood to share a bonus of £2.1m. As the annus horribilis took shape, this felt more and more wrong.
"The ethics of the bonus scandal were as bad as the optics. But there was an exit strategy, if only Harrison would recognise it: the bonus should either be returned, allowing the ECB to re-employ some of the staff whose work still had to be done, or used to broaden the game's diversity."
Elsewhere in the Almanack, two other players are honoured for their performances in 2021. South Africa's Lizelle Lee is named as the Leading Woman Cricketer in the World, after scoring more runs in 11 ODIs (632) at a higher average (90) than any other player, while Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan is named as the Leading Twenty20 Cricketer in the World, following a world-record 2,036 runs in all 20-over matches, at an average of 56.