Zaheer Khan in Wisden five for 2007-08

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London, Apr.9 : Three Englishmen, an Indian and a West Indian have been named as the Five Cricketers of the Year, in this year's Wisden Cricketers' Almanack which is published today.

Ian Bell, Ryan Sidebottom and Ottis Gibson were chosen for the award alongside India's Zaheer Khan and the West Indian, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. All were chosen for their influence on the past English season, the traditional criteria for selection.

Four of the five were picked for their achievements on the international stage, but Gibson's nomination came for his outstanding performances for Durham last season.

In the autumn of his career, Gibson led Durham's attack magnificently to end the season with 80 wickets - only ten fewer than Mushtaq Ahmed and as one of two lone seamers in the top five wicket-takers in the Championship. His coup de grace came in July when he skittled Hampshire for 115, becoming the 79th player to take all ten wickets in an innings.

Bell stood out with an un-English strike-rate of 93.

The cricinfo website quoted Lawrence Booth as saying about Bell that "The confidence placed in him as a senior batsman helped bring out that diminutive, almost impish, aestheticism; his cover-drive won the team's beauty contest hands down. The catches he has made at short leg, or at silly point when Monty Panesar has been bowling, have long indicated a ball-sense of world-class standard."

Sidebottom, on the other hand, was a clear case of one man's renaissance, forcing his way back into national reckoning after six years of despairing isolation

As Simon Hughes writes," He was now sure of his ability and trusted his methods of fast-medium-pace and probing left-arm inswing from an impressive 6 ft 3 in frame. They soon brought rewards. After the appalling waywardness of Harmison and Co in early summer, his steadiness was immensely reassuring, and his duel with a struggling Tendulkar in the Trent Bridge Test was, for the purist, one of the highlights of the summer".

Zaheer took 18 wickets in the three Tests, including nine during India's seven-wicket win at Trent Bridge, leading many to consider him the best left-armer India had ever possessed.

His excellence was of little surprise to Worcestershire's supporters, the club at which Zaheer honed his variations in 2006. "Playing for Worcestershire meant playing in different conditions, pitch and weather for five months. You had to innovate, use your thinking power," he told Pradeep Vijayakar in his piece in the Almanack.

Chanderpaul's inclusion was perhaps the most expected of all. No other West Indian batsman showed his resilience, guts and skill against England. As Ian Bishop wrote, "that no other West Indian managed a score of more than 60 in the Tests speaks of the yawning gap between his skill, commitment and experience - and theirs".

Jacques Kallis was named as the Leading Cricketer in the World for 2007, while Kevin Pietersen adorned the front cover.

ANI

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