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The Cricketer International is the best cricket magazine around. For fans of the English county season, any international team from Bangledesh to Zimbabwe, and cricket stories from today and from the past, this magazine is for you. On the international front, it has the complete scorecards and match write-ups for every test match, with such writers as Vic Marks. Also there are reports on every one-day international series, complete with many colour pictures. When England play, there is an in-depth analysis of each player and a rating. Other England touring teams, such as England A or the U19 team, have a write-up to, usually by the captain of one of the players. It is also common to find a diary by an England player on tour, giving a fresh and different view to the tour. The Cricketer is not only up to date with all the latest scores, but the latest news, if a player has moved teams and whatever. Various experts including Mark Nicholas and Ted Dexter write interesting articles about anything on the game of cricket, and for those older readers, there are plenty of nostalgic articles refering back to the days of Bradman, Benaud or Lillee. The wealth of top quality articles is great, and there are also other interesting extras including a cricketer of the month poster, LifeLines-where a top cricketer talks about his life in and out of cricket- and numerous cartoons and crosswords. To sum up, the Cricketer has top quality writers giving excellent articles on all aspects of the game, and the magazine is up to date with all the latest news, scores and views. A must for all cricket enthusiasts!
Three aged men sit, covered in cobwebs in a darkened room. Their wizened fingers grasp quills and they scratch their indecipherable scrawl across the vellum pages of leather-clad books. "Disgusting!" they disclaim, at the antics of modern cricketers, who are youthful and chew gum. "Not like in our day!" they agree, as a peroxide-haired overweight Aussie wiggles his stomach at the crowd, as he celebrates winning the Ashes. "Not got enough middle names!" and they shake their heads sadly at the sight of another product of comprehensive schools and non-white parentage representing England. Perhaps this is your impression of the editorial board of The Cricketer (as it's commonly called)... but in that case, you've obviously never read it. The Cricketer is a bright, glossy, ballsy non-establishment read. It frequently leads the cricket world in debate and innovation, attracts the best writers and big name guests... in short, in my opinion, it leaves its rival Wisden Cricket Monthly, in the shade. First up, here's my bias - I've been reading it since I was a boy, probably picking it up on a more or less regular basis since 1984 and a subscriber since 1990. So I'd like to think I'd picked a winner. But I'm also fair-minded - hell, I'm a trained historian, so I should be able to overcome bias. I'll try to make this review as balanced as I believe it should be. ...so I'll kick off by addressing what I think is the magazine's greatest weakness - scorecards. Scorecards are printed alongside the reports on all major matches (internationals from around the world and domestic finals). All too rarely though are any of the more detailed elements of a card included. This may be heading a bit speccy here, but I like to *understand* what happened in a match, and alongside a score of 54 for Mr A Batsman, I like to see how many balls, minutes,
4s and 6s that included. I know, I know, I've admitted here before that I'm sad (e.g. in my lust for Daphne from Scooby Doo - see op) but hey, this is a magazine for cricket fans. The magazine's format is well settled, with a framework of regular features that is not set in stone, which to my mind shows flexibility, rather than indecisiveness. Regulars that I look out for (there are plenty of other regular features) are: * Editorial - of late, undertaken in 3 sections, a leader by the editor of the magazine, followed by 2 opinion pieces by guest writers, usually "big names", usually on current (cricket) affairs. * Player of the month - usually an inside cover photo, with a small amount of text opposite below the "flannel panel", explaining the choice. I am unsure, but I think there's a rule that no-one can ever be awarded this twice. * International ratings - one of the areas in which the magazine has led the cricketing world. They developed (with accountants Deloitte and Touch, but now Price Waterhouse Coopers) a complex system of ratings for players and teams in international competition, that fairly and accurately compares them, with old performances diminishing in value and the relative merits of the opposition and match taken into account. So, scoring 80 out of 160 against top class opposition would weigh more heavily than 300 out of 600 against a poor side. The page will feature top 20s for bowlers and batsmen and will pick up some areas of interest, e.g. the relative improvement and waning of two players in the same side. * Milestones - a leading cricket statistician analyses recent records and near records, which vary from stupendously niggly to actually newsworthy, but rarely dull * Bouncer - a ballsy read, this anonymous page tackles the newspaper coverage of cricket over the past month. Bouncer bites, so watch out!
* Obituaries - one of the best reads, as they are all written by contemporaries who knew the person, usually as a friend. They are generous (as they should be) but often frank and sometimes hilarious. A great opportunity for telling a good yarn, often accepted. * Lifelines - this irritates me and interests me in equal measure. I hate any part of my classy cricket mag resembling the footie ones produced for 10 year olds (like Shoot! and Match) and this does. They interview a prominent cricketer and print the result as a question and answer, most of which are consistent each month. I love reading about players' most embarrassing on-the-pitch moments and find it interesting to read about their heroes and tips of youngsters for the future, but the format is childish and why anyone should want to know a cricketers favourite hotel, restaurant, car, clothes or newspaper is beyond me. Ugh! * Letters - possibly the closest resemblance to the fuddy-duddy image I described at the top, comes in this section, because some of the more vocal readers are a little fuddy-duddy. But there is lively debate (enlivened, no doubt, by the promise of champagne for the best letter!) and (it seems) an encouragement of young readers to contribute. I can't fault it, even if I think some opinions are daft, I'm usually amused or interested to read them. ...and of course, I always look for the reviews of the international matches, which are given great coverage and fantastic photography in full colour. There's also coverage of schools and club cricket, domestic competition (though the championship isn't covered in enough detail in my opinion), as well as news and gossip. It may be my (lack of) sense of humour, but I find the "humour" pieces indescribably cringesome, particularly the regulars. I'm also a great fan of cartoons, but do not admire those in The Cricketer. Oh well. For those who like a
challenge, the crosswords are extremely tough and the annual Christmas photo competition is irritatingly good... teasingly difficult. The Cricketer ain't a cheap rag (£2.90), but with subscriptions starting at £34 for a year, it's not too bad. There are substantial savings to be made with subscription - 13 issues for the price of 12 for starters, and for taking out more years of subscription, you get increased savings and protection from any price rise, which is a double bonus. With subscription, comes admittance to the "Subscribers Club", a good bit of Direct Marketing, which had yet to convince me of its benefits, but hasn't left me surly and sceptical. A few years back, I took advantage of buying 3 books at once through the club and did make a significant saving. It's been a tough decade to be a cricket writer in England. The national side have been consistently dreadful, the match-rigging affair has devastated the entire cricketing world, Test cricket is losing popularity in most of the Test-playing countries and almost no-one will actually go to a county match any more. Yet, the Cricketer has approached this gloom and despair in a sound and practical manner. It has called for change and applauded and criticised appropriately when that has happened. A level-headed view of the merits of the national side has been retained and the rewards of this are now being reaped as they approach competitiveness. There's usually a glint of optimism to be found in the gloom of despair and The Cricketer never wallowed in English cricket's problems, but reported them fairly and critically. Perhaps as a rosier future beckons, there'll be less of interest in the magazine!? (I doubt it.) I'd recommend anyone interested in a cricket magazine to pick up a copy of Wisden Cricket Monthly and The Cricketer. I'm convinced that if you're open minded to start with, you'll choose the
same way I did, back in 1990.