With a reassuring clunk, it's arrived again: the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack of 2008. A treasure trove of statistics and of considerable literary value: toilet reading of the highest order.
The Five Cricketers of the Year are Shivnarine Chanderpaul; Ryan Sidebottom; Zaheer Khan; Otis Gibson - all certainties - and Ian Bell. Bell can count himself fortunate: while he was Man of the Series in the ODIs against India, 2007 was neither his breakthrough year nor a year of stunning personal achievement. While it is true that there were not too many other candidates for this year, there must have been a good case for Glen Chapple, a county pro par excellance who took 49 CC wickets at just over 20; or Stephen Fleming, who averaged over 50 in the Notts side he skippered to promotion. Fleming, for this and his career as a whole, would have been a worthy choice.
More intriguing is the Leading Cricketer of the Year: the first man on a world XI teamsheet, based on his performances from 2007. It is Jacques Kallis, though Brett Lee, had he not missed the World Cup, could well have won it. After a year in which he found a new-found ability to dominate, and averaged 86 in Tests and 58 in ODIs, he is pretty hard to argue with. Hard to love, yes, but he is an outstanding batsman and more-than-handy in the other two disciplines. Kallis has 30 Test hundreds, with the promise of many more to come in the increasingly impressive South Africa side. A great, indisputably, and a worthy recipient of this award.