JOE ROOT’s selection as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year sparked a surprising degree of controversy.
Social networking sites were bombarded with comments querying the inclusion of the young Yorkshire batsman.
Root was last week chosen along with Bangladesh batsman Shikhar Dhawan, England women’s captain Charlotte Edwards, Australia pace bowler Ryan Harris and Australia batsman Chris Rogers.
He was the 44th Yorkshire player honoured by the almanack in a tradition that goes back to 1889.
Root’s selection was queried not so much on the basis of what he had done but what others had accomplished. “Why no Mitchell Johnson?” many asked. “What about Graham Onions?” others questioned.
Johnson destroyed England during the recent Ashes series, while Onions helped Durham pip Yorkshire to the County Championship. But that was to display ignorance of the award and the criteria on which the five cricketers are judged.
This could actually not be more clear. As the almanack states: “Selection is based, primarily but not exclusively, on the players’ influence on the previous English season.”
The other key stipulation is that no one can be chosen more than once. All of which explains why Johnson, who performed his work during the winter, and Onions, one of the Wisden Five in 2010, were not selected.
Root, however, deserved his inclusion, for his influence on the previous season was pronounced.
He was the leading English batsman in the national averages with 1,228 runs at 72.23. He was the first in the country to 1,000 first-class runs, 467 of them scored in his two County Championship appearances for Yorkshire.
His total included an innings of 104 against New Zealand at Headingley that saw him become the first Yorkshire player to score his maiden Test century at his home ground, plus an innings of 180 against Australia that made him the youngest English batsman to score an Ashes hundred at Lord’s.
The argument, if there is one, is whether the award itself stands up to scrutiny.
By deeming that no one can be chosen more than once, it is clearly not designed to be a definitive list. But that is to miss the point and the spirit involved. It is intended to recognise quality in a broader sense.
In an era where traditions are falling by the wayside, why not hold true to one that goes back to the late 19th century, a system that spreads its garlands across the board?
No award is perfect; all of them are subjective. But Root’s is merited – even if he will probably have better years further down the line.
Perhaps the best thing about the award is its diversity. The selection of Alan Richardson in 2012, for example, just one month short of his 37th birthday, recognised an unheralded career as much as an excellent summer in 2011. Just as umpiring technology is not infallible, no matter how many gizmos are employed, so we should accept the award for what it is.
It is a proud tradition – and one to be upheld.