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Wisden names Clarke as No. 1

Michael Clarke is just the third Australian to receive the honour.

Michael Clarke is just the third Australian to receive the honour. Photo: Getty Images

Michael Clarke's phenomenal batting in 2012 has earned the Australian captain another accolade, as Wisden's leading cricketer in the world.

Clarke is just the third Australian to receive the honour, after champions Ricky Ponting in 2003 and Shane Warne in 2004, and he celebrates the achievement in the treasured almanack's 150th edition.

Clarke struck four double centuries last year, and averaged 106 for the calendar year. "Only Bradman, Sobers and Ponting before him had reached New Year's Eve on such a plane," Wisden noted.

Clarke carried the Australian batting with 1595 runs, placing him nearly 350 runs clear of his nearest rival, Alastair Cook.

"I feel very honoured to be named as Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World," Clarke said. "Given the esteemed history and tradition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack it is a very humbling accolade and one that I hold in the highest regard."

Clarke, the best player in a struggling Australian team, is convalescing because of a degenerative back condition ahead of this winter's Ashes.

Wisden was full of praise for the Australian captain and full of condemnation for England's star batsman Kevin Pietersen for his part in the drama that saw him exiled from the team last year. Pietersen has since been "re-integrated".

"Cricket, some suspected, existed only as an extension of Pietersen's whims (and unlike team, cricket definitely has an "I" in it)," Wisden editor Lawrence Booth wrote.

"Emboldened by a lucrative new Indian Premier League deal, he was arrogant, attempting to bulldoze over the terms of his central contract. He was self-pitying, claiming he had never been looked after. And he was a man apart, sending silly texts to the South Africans."

Also in Wisden's notes by the editor, Booth fears an overload of Ashes series over the next three years will detract from the magic of cricket's oldest rivalry.

"Administrators will point to full houses as proof that all is well. But a little of the magic will be lost. By the end of the 2015 Ashes, the Australians will have visited this country for bilateral series five summers out of seven. Part of the charm of the big series resides in its sense of occasion," Booth wrote.

"But ten straight Ashes Tests from July [2013] to January [2014] will be less of an occasion, more of a routine. And if the cycle of two series against Australia every four years was disturbed to spare England winters containing both an Ashes and a World Cup, then no such excuse can be made for Australia's swift return here in 2015. Not since the start of the 20th century, when only three sides played Test cricket, have 15 Ashes matches been crammed into so short a span."

Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year are Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn, Marlon Samuels and Nick Compton.

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