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News

Ben Stokes named Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World for third time in four years

Ben Foakes, Matthew Potts, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Harmanpreet Kaur named as Five Cricketers of the Year

Ben Stokes won 10 of his first 11 Tests as England captain  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes won 10 of his first 11 Tests as England captain  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes has been named men's Leading Cricketer in the World in the 2023 edition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, published on Tuesday.
Stokes, who achieved the honour in 2020 and 2021 for his performance with bat and ball, has made it three wins in four years primarily off the back of his leadership. Since being appointed as Test captain at the start of last summer, the 31-year-old has overseen a dramatic shift in the team's fortunes, inspiring them to 10 wins in 12.
Wins against New Zealand, India and South Africa, then successes on the tours of Pakistan - England became the first side to win 3-0 - and New Zealand, put Stokes in exalted company. Not only did he achieve 10 wins quicker than any previous England captain - Michael Vaughan was the previous quickest to the mark, from 16 matches - but the feat equalled that of Australia's Lindsay Hassett, who had previously stood alone with 10 from 12.
The revitalisation was much needed after England's run of one victory in the previous 17 Tests before Stokes' appointment. The allrounder also averaged 40 with the bat and 25.66 with the ball that summer, going on on to help England to the T20 World Cup in October, dragging the team over the line in a final yet again.
"It's hard to think of any other cricketer who could have transformed his team's fortunes so suddenly as Ben Stokes," Lawrence Booth, Wisden's editor, said. "When he took over the Test captaincy, England had won one game in their previous 17. By the time they had become the first visiting side to win 3-0 in Pakistan, they had won nine out of ten, and were playing with unprecedented style and verve.
"And he was forceful with both bat and ball, scoring a series-turning century against South Africa in Manchester. Later in the year, he steered England to the T20 World Cup with the defining innings of the final against Pakistan in Melbourne - the icing on the cake for a cricketer who has transformed the way the game is played."
The part played by Brendon McCullum, instilled by new men's director of cricket Rob Key, is also credited by Booth, particularly the "pursuit of fun really did trump fear of failure". Beyond the results, the shift was clear. They left 2022 having struck 89 sixes (65 under Stokes) - the most of any team in a calendar year. Booth hopes "Bazball" will revive more than a team given the nature of the 2023-27 Future Tours Programme.
"More enterprise is needed to maintain interest in Test cricket, after the international fixture list confirmed a hopeless imbalance: between this summer and the end of the 2026-27 winter, England will play 20 of their 43 Tests against Australia or India; and only those three teams will regularly contest meaningful series."
Jonny Bairstow, widely acknowledged as the heartbeat of the Bazball movement with 681 runs last summer, becomes the first recipient of the new Wisden Trophy for outstanding individual Test performance, by a man or woman. Bairstow earned the prize with his performance against India at Edgbaston with hundreds in both innings, the second allowing England to chase down a national record target of 378. The silver trophy was previously given to the winners of England-West Indies Test series from 1963 onwards before it was replaced by the Richards-Botham trophy in 2020.
Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and Durham seamer Matthew Potts are two representatives of that team named among Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year - an honour a player can only win once in their career and which is judged by their performance during the English home season.
Foakes' high standards behind the stumps were matched by his calmness in front of them, coming to England's rescue twice. The first helped them over the line at Lord's against New Zealand with an unbroken stand of 120 with Joe Root, before scoring 113 not out as part of a stand with Stokes against South Africa that put them in charge of the Old Trafford Test.
Potts, meanwhile, enjoyed a strong start to his international career, taking 20 wickets at 28.00, playing the first five Tests of the summer. He underlined his worth as an incisive seamer by removing Kane Williamson three times and then Virat Kohli in the one-off India Test. Domestically, he was just as relentless, with 58 County Championship wickets at 17.87.
New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell are also named among the five as the two batters who were a constant thorn in England's side, with 538 and 383 runs respectively, in the three-match series. India women's captain Harmanpreet Kaur is the other overseas representative of the five, having led from the front with 221 runs - including an unbeaten 143 - to lead her country to their first ODI series win in England since 2009. She also led India to a silver-medal in the Commonwealth Games.
India were pipped to gold by Australia, adding to their World Cup win earlier that year. Their leading runscorer in both competitions, Beth Mooney, subsequently earned her second women's Leading Cricketer in the World honour in three years. As well as helping Australia retain the women's Ashes, she averaged 100 across ODIs last year.
There is also recognition for a spectacular 2022 for Suryakumar Yadav as the leading Twenty20 Cricketer in the World. Centuries against England and New Zealand - from 48 balls and 49 balls - saw him become the second international T20 batter to top a thousand runs in a year, eventually finishing with 1,164 at a strike rate of 187.
Beyond the field, the life and times of Shane Warne are celebrated throughout the Almanack. The charismatic Australian leg-spinner, who died in March 2022, is given a lengthy obituary and other prose celebrating an enigmatic cricketer and character.
"His contribution to leg-spin, cricket's toughest skill, hardly needs restating," writes Booth in his Editor's Notes. "Just as immense was the blow he struck for all bowlers. Three of the Cricketers of the Century - Don Bradman, Jack Hobbs, Viv Richards - were batters, and the all-rounder, Garry Sobers, averaged 57. But Warne drew the gaze to the other end of the pitch. He was a one-man theatre, a walking box office."
The proliferation of T20 franchise tournaments over the last year is put under the microscope. The SA20, ILT20 and Major League Cricket and the ever-expanding IPL has seen the landscape under cricket's feet shift immeasurably. Booth insists the increased cannibalisation within the game, both from franchise tournaments and international boards, must be addressed.
"The question of what cricket wants to be is familiar enough - though has never been more urgent... Now, three power blocs are in a relationship that is part-symbiotic, part-parasitic: the T20 franchises, in it for themselves; the ICC, nominally in charge; and the national boards, keen to placate broadcasters and generate their own revenue.
"The battle for time and space is not sustainable, causing chaos on the one hand, ennui on the other. Four days after lifting the T20 World Cup, Jos Buttler led England in an ODI series in Australia. They lost 3-0, but few could tell you much about it: no one watched, and no one - not even Buttler - greatly cared."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo