Business Day

SA can lay claim to four of Wisden’s five cricketers of year

- TELFORD VICE Johannesbu­rg

SA CAN lay claim to four of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year, who will be immortalis­ed when the 150th edition of the famous almanack is published today.

But the country might have had all five: how did Vernon Philander fail to crack the nod? Three of SA’s famous four, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, earned the honour for their performanc­es on SA’s tour to England last year.

The fourth, Nick Compton, was born in Durban and moved to England as a teenager. In India in November last year, he made his Test debut for the land of his paternal grandfathe­r Denis’s birth.

Such has been SA’s dominance of Test cricket in the past year that — in Mike Procter’s estimation — they merited more than a perfect score.

“Three out of five is pretty good, but we could have had six out of five,” Procter joked yesterday.

Marlon Samuels is Wisden’s odd man in for his gutsy batting on West Indies’ tour to England last year. Samuels’s innings of 31, 86, 117, 76 not out and 76 took the edge off a difficult series for the Windies.

But Procter thinks SA were hard done by. “Compton has only played seven Tests, whereas Vernon has proved himself through the year. Not to take anything away from Compton, Vernon could have got it.”

Philander, the joint secondfast­est bowler to take 50 Test wickets in cricket history, had the lowest average on both sides in the England-SA series.

Compton was rewarded for a superb first-class season for Somerset last year in which he scored 1,494 runs at an average of 99.60 with five centuries.

Procter did not want to quibble too much with Wisden’s decision.

“Amla, Kallis and Steyn deserve this and the team deserve it,” he said. “It’s a great honour because Wisden is such a famous cricketing name. It doesn’t change your life but it is recognitio­n.”

Procter was honoured by Wisden in 1970 — the year that an all-white SA team were cast into the wilderness of isolation due to apartheid.

“It made me feel more accepted into cricket’s wider society, and meant I wasn’t hidden behind the apartheid SA banner,” he said.

In a release yesterday, Wisden lauded Amla as “the batting sensation of the (English) summer”, said the “only surprise about the selection of … Kallis was that he hadn’t been chosen earlier” and said Steyn had “cemented his status as the world’s most frightenin­g fast bowler”.

Amla scored 482 runs in five Test innings in England — 311 of them in one undefeated effort at The Oval.

In the same match, Kallis, the pre-eminent all-rounder of the age, made 182 not out in an unbroken stand of 377 with Amla and took the important wickets of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell.

Steyn was the leading wickettake­r in the series with 15.

But, aside from Amla’s monumental innings, the highest by a South African, Philander’s 5/30 in the second innings at Lord’s was the finest performanc­e of the series.

Meanwhile, Wisden has turned on Pietersen, terming him arrogant, self-pitying and isolated, for his part in the furore which destabilis­ed English cricket last summer.

There have been more trenchant Notes by the Editor, but Lawrence Booth reserves his sternest criticism for Pietersen’s behaviour during England’s Test series defeat to SA.

“Cricket, some suspected, existed only as an extension of Pietersen’s whims (and unlike team, cricket definitely has an ‘I’ in it). Emboldened by a lucrative new Indian Premier League deal, he was arrogant, attempting to bulldoze over the terms of his central contract. He was self-pitying, claiming he had never been looked after. And he was a man apart, sending silly texts to the South Africans,” Booth writes. With Cricinfo.com

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