England all-rounder Ben Stokes has been named the Leading Cricketer in the World in 2019 by the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Wisden editor Lawrence Booth joined Yas Rana and Jo Harman to discuss Stokes’ impact across the last English summer, in which he was Player of the Match in the World Cup final and England’s Player of the Series in the Ashes.
Yas Rana: Can you think of any other examples of cricketers to have such an extraordinary impact on one English summer?
Lawrence Booth: [Ian] Botham ’81 is the obvious one. [Andrew] Flintoff perhaps to a slightly lesser degree in 2005. English cricket seems to deal with these larger-than-life all-rounders. Look at Australian cricket, it’s never really had it in the same degree. They tried to make Shane Watson a kind of larger-than-life all-rounder and he kept getting hit on his front pad, so it never really worked. For some reason English cricket does it and once in a career they have a summer that everyone still associates with them; 2019 will be Stokes’ year, just as ’81 was Botham’s.
Interestingly I was looking at there stats and I write about it in the [editor’s] notes, but Stokes turns 29 this year. After their 29th birthdays, their [Botham and Flintoff’s] batting averages were mid-to-late twenties and their bowling averages were late thirties, forty. I don’t think that’s going to happen with Stokes. It may happen right at the end of his career, but for the next few years, he’ll be at his peak. I think we’ll see the best of him and that’s almost the most exciting thing about him: he’ll get better and better. And indeed, he won the Cape Town Test at the start of the year after the award had been given which confirmed that this guy is still going places.
Jo Harman: In terms of impact of an English cricketer in a summer, Stokes had, perhaps not quite unique, but the almost unique opportunity of an Ashes and World Cup in the same summer. It’s not often you get that chance and to grab both of them, in the way that he did, in such a short space of time, is going to take some beating. It wasn’t just how brilliant he was, it was the opportunity laid out for him in the first place.