I m awaiting my copy of the latest Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. ‘First week of May,’ my friendly bookseller assures me.
It’s not a book I buy every year like the far cheaper Australian Broadcasting Corporation season guide, but it’s nice to be enriched with a Wisden once every three to four years. And after you’ve had your fill, it makes for a decorative line-up on your bookshelf.
There’s been a lot of cynicism about the Almanack over the years. Some of it justified, plenty of it not important.
One annoying aspect of the Almanack is that it does not review books published in India. “We are too insular,” confessed one of its editors a few years ago.
At the end of the day, it is an authentic guide to cricket and one must hand it to that editorial team for producing something that cricket lovers can bank on for accuracy and merit.
Some of the contents of this year’s edition have been publicised and the Board of Control for Cricket in India has reportedly been slammed by Wisden’s new editor, Lawrence Booth. He points to India’s obsession with Twenty20 cricket: “Some national boards would struggle to survive without an Indian visit. But too often their game appears driven by the self-interest of the few — officials unable to admit that injuries collected in, or aggravated by the IPL damaged their side’s chances in England; capable of suggesting disregard for the innings defeat at Sydney in January 2012 by responding with the breathless news of the schedule for IPL 5; and happy to whitewash the whitewashes with constant reference to the World Cup.”
Booth is an intelligent man, a good cricket writer with The Daily Mail, but like India’s so-called obsession with Twenty20 cricket, the English press too are obsessed with India’s cricketing wealth. By the way, Booth was in India to cover the inaugural IPL in 2008 and wrote for this paper.
I was in England when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s got a 0-4 Test series shellacking and one could notice how much delight the Brits extracted while reporting on India’s foibles. They, like many of us forgot, it is a sport at the end of the day and everything cannot go as per plan just like it did to the England team which lost four Tests in a row when they came visiting the sub-continent. The criticism was not as vitriolic as they dished out to India in the English summer.
Wonder how the Brit media is coping with Kevin Pietersen’s recent barb with regards to their attitude to the IPL. “It’s down to a lot of jealousy I think, which is sad. It saddens me, all the negative publicity the IPL gets in the (UK) media, I don’t know why,” said Pietersen, a Delhi Daredevils player this year.
The English media is populated by players turned writers/ commentators, who will be quick to slam the IPL, but will also be glad to be offered a commentary assignment for the extravaganza.
There must be criticism and hard talk as long as there is no hypocrisy.
Back to Wisden. Last year, Wisden on India (An Anthology) was published in England and India with foreword written by Ravi Shastri. He rued the fact that he was never a Cricketer of the Year in the annual although he thought he came close once or twice.
Kumar Sangakkara is the only non-Englishman in this year’s list. Although this is not surprising, it’s one good reason to believe that Wisden is not well and truly global in their approach. So, when people call it the bible of cricket, you need not take it as gospel truth.