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England v West Indies

Why do England and West Indies play for the Wisden Trophy in Tests?

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

West Indies currently hold the Wisden Trophy having beaten England in the last Test series played between the sides in early 2019, but why do they play for the Wisden Trophy, and what is its history?

There’s no set rule for naming the trophy two Test sides play for. While picking the name of two greats of the game who held sway in contests between the teams is one popular method, such as the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy constested by Australia and Sri Lanka, or the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which Australia and India will do battle for later this year, it’s far from uniform.

Sometimes the name has a more political meaning, with India and South Africa playing in the Gandhi-Mandela Series for the Freedom Trophy, and England and South Africa clashing over the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy, the great all-rounder whose inclusion in England’s side to tour South Africa played a part in the latter’s exclusion from international cricket due to apartheid.

Some of these names have only been added recently, though still not all fixtures have a label attached. But the Wisden Trophy is one of the oldest in cricket, behind only the Ashes, the Frank Worrell Trophy contested by Australia and West Indies, and the Anthony de Mello Trophy played for between England and India in India.

It was first awarded in 1963 to commemorate the 100th edition of the Wisden Almanack being published. The Wisden Trophy itself isn’t quite as unassuming as the Ashes urn, but, coming in at 30cm by 30cm, is still small compared to modern trophy standards.

It features an unnamed batsman and bowler taking guard and in their delivery stride respectively, while in the centre is an image of John Wisden, the founder of the Wisden Alamanack. A plaque on the trophy reads: “This Trophy, to be competed for between England and West Indies in 1963 and succeeding Test series, was presented by Wisden’s to commemorate the publication in 1963 of the 100th edition of Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack.”

Like the urn, it is kept in a museum at Lord’s, rather than actually changing hands, and it’s introduction coincided with a change of fortunes between the sides. While England won five of the first 10 series the teams contested to West Indies’ three, only two of the next 17 went the way of Test cricket’s founders. West Indies won 12 series in that time, including seven in a row between 1976 and 1989/90, and held the Wisden Trophy for 27 years, from 1973 to 2000, when England finally got one over on their Caribbean rivals.

That was the first series in which the Malcolm Marshall Memorial Trophy was awarded to the leading wicket-taker in the rubber, and since then, it’s England who have been the dominant side, winning seven of the last 10 series the sides have played. However, after West Indies’ memorable 2-1 victory in the Caribbean at the beginning of 2019, it is they who currently hold the Wisden trophy.

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