TEST captain Michael Clarke has been named Wisden’s leading cricketer of 2012, becoming only the third Australian to receive the honour.
He joins former skipper Ricky Ponting (2003) and legspinner Shane Warne (2004) in being given the accolade.
Clarke scored 1595 runs in the 2012 calendar year, including four double centuries, averaging a remarkable 106.33.
In the 150th edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the historic publication said 2012 witnessed a full flowering of the lavish batting talent announced so spectacularly on debut by Clarke in Bangalore in 2004.
“It began with 329 not out against India, the biggest Test innings ever played at the SCG, curtailed only by his own declaration, with (Don) Bradman’s (and Mark Taylor’s) highest Test scores of 334 one hit away.
“A double century followed at Adelaide before, at the start of the 2012-13 season, free-hitting back-to-back doubles against South Africa. He rounded off the year with his first century in a Boxing Day Test, against Sri Lanka. His score, 106, was also his calendar-year average; only Bradman, (Sir Garfield) Sobers and Ponting before him had reached New Year’s Eve on such a plane. And his 2012 Test aggregate of 1595 placed him nearly 350 runs clear of his nearest rival, Alastair Cook.
Clarke said he felt very honoured to be named as Wisden’s leading cricketer in the world.
“Given the esteemed history and tradition of the Wisden Cricketers Almanac, it is a very humbling accolade and one that I hold in the highest regard.”
Clarke’s accolade as leading world cricketer is a relatively new award, given for only the 10th time.
Eight others have won it including Warne and Ponting – with Indian opening batsman Virender Sehwag doing so twice.
England batsman Nick Compton was named as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year, joining his grandfather Denis who earned the accolade in 1939.
Compton is the only Englishman to receive the prestigious nod, which can only be given to an individual once in their career.
His form won an England call for the winter tours of India and New Zealand and he appears to have cemented his place as Andrew Strauss’ replacement in time for a first Ashes series.
South African trio Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn join Compton, as does West Indian Marlon Samuels.
The cricketers of the year are nominated for their achievements in the previous English summer, with the Proteas players rewarded for their 2-0 Test series win over a home side they ultimately replaced as world No.1.
Samuels joined them having excelled for the West Indies earlier in the summer in the face of defeat.
Of the overseas contingent, the inclusion of Kallis is most surprising. Not because he was deemed worthy, but that it had not already happened before.
The 37-year-old allrounder is a colossus of the modern game and a key part of the South African side who so skilfully dismantled England on their own turf on their way to becoming the world’s No.1 Test side.
Amla and Steyn are equally strong picks, the key batsman and key bowler in the sport’s most formidable unit.