Gosh, is it really a year since the last one? The new cricket season waits before us, to borrow radio genius Danny Baker’s delicious aphorism, like a great big shoe with its lights on. It’s quite probably my age, but the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack is surely coming round quicker every year. At least that’s how it feels.
It’s the first under the editorship of Lawrence Booth, the youngest editor of the Wisden Almanack for 72 years. I’m pleased to report its very much business as usual. No boats have been rocked, it still looks, feels and reads very much like a Wisden should. He tackles the weighty issues affecting (the future of) the game – Twenty20, India and the IPL, the jailing of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, the World Cup and Test cricket. However, he has also introduced two competitions (see page 25), one of which offers a lucky reader/writer the chance to have his or her work published in next year’s Almanack, which will be the 150th.
The big news is always the Five Cricketers of the Year. Yes, the selection of Alastair Cook was a no-brainer, but what had he done, or not done, to escape the accolade thus far, a full six years since his debut ton in India? Likewise, Kumar Sangakkara, a run-glutton for Sri Lanka for the past dozen years, who was also named The Leading Cricketer in the World, 2011. Tim Bresnan, a cricketer who is showing every promise of rising above the rank of doughty yeoman into something approaching the new Flinto… Let’s just say he’s turning into a pretty useful Test all-rounder. Completing the quintet are County Champions Lancashire and Worcestershire stalwarts respectively Glen Chapple and Alan Richardson.
A mighty two hundred plus pages are devoted to absorbing essays, reviews and comment before we get on to the nuts and bolts of stats covering every game of note from the past year with records being broken or updated from across the game’s rich history.
It’s not for me to tell you what to read in a Wisden Almanack, it’s for you to delve in as your whim takes you. What gives greatest delight, for me, is that nothing escapes its attention, however obscure or arcane. I chanced across a category titled ‘I might as well not have bothered’, subtitled ‘Players in English first-class cricket who top-scored in both innings, took ten wickets and lost.’ Take a bow, Warwickshire’s C.R.Woakes, the tenth player to do so, the first being W.G. Grace back in 1869, whose 64 and 23* plus 7-20 and 3-103 could not prevent Hampshire defeating him, and his obviously hapless team mates, by 209 runs in August.
Finally, I wouldn’t normally scour the stats of the Aussie domestic game but my Wisden fell open, like a wizard’s book of spells, at just the right page. May I draw English and Australian eyes to page 884 – Australia First-Class Batting Averages, 2010-11. Places 1 to 3 are occupied by Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, all of whom play for the England XI. An Aussie (Queensland’s James Hopes) sneaks in at 4, before Andrew Strauss, also of the England XI stands at number 5. Yes, Sir Donald Bradman, Mark Taylor, Dennis Lillee, Steve Waugh, Alan Border, Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting, we haven’t forgotten, your boys took one hell of a beating.
Well done, Lawrence Booth and all his merrie contributors.