The 2011 edition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack will feature only four Cricketers of the Year, instead of the usual five, after the editor, Scyld Berry, chose to break with ancient tradition to reflect a year in which allegations of corruption during Pakistan's tour of England left a stain on the sport's reputation.
The truncated list will feature in the Almanack's 148th edition, which is officially unveiled on Wednesday. The tradition, which dates back to 1889, is the oldest individual honour in cricket, and though the format has occasionally varied, with six great bowlers being chosen for the original award, Wisden has chosen five names in every year since 1926, barring a hiatus during the Second World War.
That, however, has changed for this year, after one of the chosen Five Cricketers became embroiled in the spot-fixing furore which broke during the Lord's Test between England and Pakistan last August. Following an investigation by The News of the World, the ICC charged Pakistan's opening bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir with bowling deliberate no-balls, with their captain, Salman Butt, also implicated in the scandal.
Asif is currently serving a seven-year ban, with two suspended, Amir a straight five years and Butt 10 years, with half suspended after being found guilty by an independent tribunal. The three players are also facing criminal charges in the UK, with their trial set to get underway on May 20 at Southwark Crown Court.
Though Wisden chose not to name the omitted player, it was the performance of Amir - then 18 - which really captured the public imagination during Pakistan's tour. Bowling at genuine pace with deadly late swing from a left-arm line, he claimed 19 wickets at 18.36 in four Tests against England, and a further 11 in the two-match series against Australia, including seven in the second Test at Headingley, when Australia were bowled out for 88 on the first morning.
"If [the player in question] were exonerated, then it would be possible to reconsider the position," explained Berry. "That's why I didn't pick anyone else instead. But as things stand, we don't feel we can choose him. It's all very sad."
The other four nominees include the first players from Bangladesh and Ireland to receive the award. Tamim Iqbal struck memorable hundreds at both Lord's and Old Trafford during Bangladesh's Test tour in May and June 2010, having already shown himself to be a world-class player at home against England two months earlier, while Eoin Morgan's innovative strokeplay helped propel England to the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, as well as secure home ODI series wins over Australia and Pakistan.
The other two players are Jonathan Trott, who announced himself as England's most reliable run-scorer, with 1,325 Test runs in the calendar year, including scores of 226 and 184 in consecutive Lord's Tests, and Chris Read, who captained Nottinghamshire to a thrilling County Championship victory, which was sealed on the final day of the season with a surging victory over Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Alastair Cook, who was eligible for selection, missed out on the honour because excellence in (or influence on) the previous English summer are the major criteria for the Cricketer of the Year accolade. Though Cook recorded an outstanding tally of 766 runs in the recent Ashes series, his returns in the 2010 summer were poor. He has, however, been honoured by appearing on the cover of the Almanack, pictured celebrating his century in the Sydney Test.