Cricket Weekly #18: Stokes the Best in the World, Wisden Awards and #QuarantineCup

By Riley Taylor (@rileyttaylor21)

Welcome to the 18th edition of Overtime’s Cricket Weekly Column, where we look at the week’s biggest stories and games.

Now I explained last week what with there being a lack of cricket action due to the current ongoing global pandemic I would be reviewing Amazon documentary The Test week-by-week until cricket action resumed or there was some genuine news to report.

Well, would you believe it there is news to report, so sit back, pad up and enjoy!

Ben Stokes: Best Cricketer in the World

As regular viewers may know, I am quite a big fan of Ben Stokes and I have even said before that he was the reason that I began to love cricket and after his recent barnstorming form, I have been rectified in my plaudits of him.

Stokes had already won England the World Cup last July, performed the impossible with the help of Jack Leach at Headingley in August before he was crowned Sports Personality of the Year in December, but Stokes has now added another accolade to his recent achievements, that of the Wisden Leading Men’s Cricketer in the World.

For those that don’t know, any Wisden accolade is a special one, with a 154-year history of cricket writing it is a historical legacy that will carry on until the game’s conclusion.

Furthermore, the Wisden Almanack or what is known to cricket fans as ‘the Holy Bible of Cricket’ is an annual book with 156 editions that awards cricketers based on their year of cricket with features from some of the best journalists in the world as well as dictating every international match from the year.

The title ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ is an annual award which is awarded in each edition of the annual and it is taken seriously with it only able to be won once by each player with only special exceptions made with Jack Hobbs the last man to win it twice, in 1926.

Stokes had already won the award in 2016 but due to his exceptional year, he was crowned ‘Leading Cricketer of the World’ by Wisden an award won by Virat Kohli the past three years. The award is the highest accolade awarded by Wisden, which only the greats of the game have won and Stokes certainly is that.

The Wisden Awards

Aside from Stokes, there were other awards to go out. Stokes had obviously taken home the Men’s Leading Cricketer of the Year but taking home the Women’s award was another great all-rounder and one of the finest players of the game, Ellyse Perry.

It is a mark of Perry’s greatness that she has won the award twice as well as a Cricketer of the Year award.

In 2019 alone she scored a century (plus 76 not out) in her only Test, and two more unbeaten centuries in ODIs, where she averaged 73. From six Twenty20 international innings, she was dismissed once, averaging a ridiculous 150.

On top of that were 21 one-day wickets at 13 apiece, and six in T20s. A true titan of the game and a deserved winner.

Next comes, the Cricketers of the Year and this year it was harder than ever with some of the years best players including Stokes and Steve Smith already winning the award.

Here are the winners:

1) Ellyse Perry

As I mentioned earlier, Perry won her second Leading Women’s Player of the Year Award but she topped this off by winning her first-ever Cricketer of the Year Award.

She becomes the first overseas woman to win the award and after the year she has had, including winning the T20 World Cup, there is no better person for the award to go to.

2) Jofra Archer

What a whirlwind year its been for the Barbados-born youngster.

Called up for his first England appearance in May, since then he has propelled himself into the hearts of every England fan and is set to become one of the greats of the game if he keeps his form up.

The Sussex star had a superb World Cup in which he finished as the third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament before a late Ashes call saw him flourish in the Test arena with his 90mph bouncers and overall flair.

Despite having a tough time in New Zealand amid claims he had been overbooked, Archer is certainly going to be of the great fast-bowlers of the game, just for god’s sake lets not rest our laurels on him every time he plays.

3) Pat Cummins

Australia had a superb Ashes series and they retained the Ashes in most part thanks to Steve Smith with the bat Pat Cummins with the ball.

Cummins made his Test debut at the age of just 18 before suffering numerous injuries and stress fractures which put him out of the game for six years and it has been an amazing comeback story ever since.

However, he has fought back superbly, winning back his Test place and becoming one of the stars in Australia’s World Cup campaign in 2019.

But the Ashes was where he really shined as he finished as top wicket-taker in the series with 29 wickets as he wreaked havoc on the English batsman, as his side retained the Ashes.

4) Marnus Labuschagne

Another Ashes star but this was a player that was fairly unheard of before the series.

Now of course if your a proper cricket badger (like me) you’ll know that Labuschagne had torn up Division Two of the County Championship with Glamorgan a few months before his callup and so there was never a question of talent.

However, after just a handful of fairly unsuccessful Test appearances for Australia beforehand it never looked like he would turn out to be the player to defy England in the way he did.

After being called up as the very first concussion substitute in Test cricket for Steve Smith who had pretty much been invincible in the series he had a big role to fill.

But after 291 runs he finished as the fourth-highest run-scorer in the series to make himself a regular in the Test team.

But his best was yet to come, back-to-back hundreds versus Pakistan before he made three in a row versus New Zealand before an incredible double ton versus the Kiwis to wrap up the series.

A monumental first stint as a regular in the Australian XI and id imagine there’s going to be plenty more runs and appearances for Marnus Loose Bus Change.

5) Simon Harmer

It has been commonplace in recent years for a star of the County Championship to win the award and this years award went to Essex off-spinner Simon Harmer.

Since joining as a Kolpak signing in 2017, the former-South African office has been a revolution in all-formats for his side, taking 212 across just three seasons.

However, in 2019 he at his imperious best, finishing as top wicket-taker in Division One with 85 wickets as Essex won the title before he hit the winning runs in the T20 Blast final to clinch a famous double.

Oh, and because he’s a Kolpak, he’s available to play for England in a couple of years…

#QuarantineCup

If you weren’t already aware there’s a small matter of a global pandemic at the moment which has pretty much destroyed any hope of there being any kind of sport this year but this hasn’t stopped people yet from getting their fix.

Sports such as Formula 1 have gone digital and are taking their sports to the consoles in order to keep some sort of sporting action alive.

The Cricketer, an online cricket news site and weekly magazine decided to start what is now called the #QuarantineCup, a competition that will see 11 counties take on each other across a month in T20 games on videogame Cricket 19.

Each county will be represented by one of their own professional players, with each team taking on each other once in their own respective groups.

The two highest-ranked teams from each group will then take on each other in two semi-finals before a winner will be decided in The Final on May 12.

The players and teams competition are as followed:

Jamie Porter – Essex

Roman Walker – Glamorgan

George Hankins – Gloucestershire

Mason Crane – Hampshire

Imran Qayyum – Kent

Hassan Azad – Leicestershire

Ricardo Vasconcelos – Northants

Tom Moores – Nottinghamshire

Sophia Dunkley – Surrey

Tymal Mills – Sussex

Dan Mousley – Warwickshire

The tournament (which starts on April 12) will also feature commentary from some of the finest voices in the game such as Dan Norcross, Henry Moeran and Mark Church.

Sky Get it Right, Wrong, Right, then Wrong

I understand the title for this section is a little confusing but this is exactly what happened and there’s a little digging to do to explain it.

At the start of the week before Easter Sunday, Sky Sports Cricket announced, in the absence of any actual cricket, that they were going to show two remarkable England performances from last summer, one being a replay of the Headingley Test in which Stokes and Leach performed their miracle innings’ and the other being a repeat of the entire World Cup Final.

It was the former which brought about the trouble as Sky first announced it was to be shown in full, (ball-by-ball) on both Sky Cricket, Main Event and on their YouTube channel for anyone that doesn’t have Sky.

This seemed like a superb initiative as Sky looked to follow on from their promotion of free-to-air cricket from last year’s World Cup Final.

However, on the day the game was supposed to be aired, all of the tweets promoting the action on their YouTube channel and even any mention of their YouTube channel were deleted and when promoting the game itself, there was only reference to it being on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event channels.

An eagle eye at Wisden spotted this mistake and this is how it got to my attention, rightfully I sided with others who were complaining about Sky doubling down on their offering of free-to-air cricket, without even an acknowledgement that they were going to do so, it seemed very disingenuous.

Sky had also announced that there was to be a watch-along of the Test with pundits Rob Key, Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton along with reaction from the players who were involved in the game (Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow). People thought this was the reason for the switch however the watch-along was advertised along with the free-to-air streaming so it couldn’t have been the reason for the late switch

However, to their credit Sky saw the barrage of tweets and decided to air the game as previously advertised on YouTube and it all seemed to be going swimmingly from there.

Then the watch-a-long started. Oh boy, what chaos it was too. It was a clever ploy by Sky because if people actually wanted to watch the match with no interruptions, they would have to go over to Sky’s channels to watch it as the watch-along deliberately made the screen where the action was shown, smaller in order to accommodate the face cams from the pundits and players.

There were a host of other problems at the start, with the producer of the programme being heard giving instructions to what should be on screen and when, in addition to a phone ringing every 30 seconds which ruined the opening part of the proceedings and actually forced me to turn it off as it was unbearable.

Next came the audio quality, I’ve seen YouTubers with 500 subs with better ideas on how to project a face cam with proper audio. Rob Key who was supposed to be directing questions to the players, (which he did half the time along with berating the idea of a 12th man and just generally talking about himself), was using Airpods which made his voice sound like it was coming from a cave in the middle of nowhere.

The rest of audio was scratchy but that was understandable considering the three other face cams and different audio’s to control and it was still at least bearable.

However, it was a production worthy of a small startup YouTube channel not one of the biggest sporting media conglomerates in the world and to be quite honest it was only saved by the last hour with Ben Stokes and Joe Root actually giving funny and superb insight into what the moments in the game were like to be a part of.

Put it this way, don’t worry if you missed it.

It gets a Cricket Weekly Rating of 5.5/10.

Clarke v Paine

Our last item this week comes from Australia and it involves some beef between former Australian captain Michael Clarke and current Australian captain Tim Paine.

Clarke was on an Australian radio show this week and revealed his opinion that Australian players had been ‘sucking up’ to Indian players when they last toured Australia back in 2018.

Clarke said players were “too scared” to play a normal game against India because of the influence of the world’s wealthiest cricket tournament and the possible effect that if the Aussies sledged any of Indians they would lose their IPL deals.

“Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, internationally or domestically with the IPL,” Clarke said on Sky Racing television.

“I feel that Australian cricket, and probably every other team over a little period, went the opposite and actually sucked up to India.”

It was a scathing review of the current Australian team which lead current captain Paine to respond.

I certainly didn’t notice too many people being that nice to Virat or not trying to get him out or anything like that,” Paine told ESPNcricinfo. “I thought everyone who had the ball in their hand or when we were batting were trying their absolute best to win the game for Australia. I’m not sure who was going easy on him; we certainly had a thing where we didn’t want to provoke any fight with him because we think that’s when he plays at his best.”

“I certainly wasn’t holding back, but again, the IPL’s not a huge draw for me at the moment, so I had nothing to lose,” Paine said. “But anytime our guys go out and play a Test match for Australia, they’ll be giving their absolute all and I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking about an IPL contract when they’re running in, bowling to Virat.”

Despite Clarke being an extremely successful captain on the field, he has certainly not been a popular figure in and amongst Australian cricket in recent years.

Well, that’s it for Cricket Weekly for this week, stay tuned for next week where I’ll be reviewing the first round of the Quarantine Cup.

For more cricket content check out last week’s Cricket Weekly where I review the first episode of The Test!

For more Overtime sport content click here.

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