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One of the first Dooyoo ops I wrote was an ill-advised attempt to spread the news of the death of Sir Don Bradman by means of an 'op' on Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. It was such a bad idea, that until today, the op remained 'locked' by Dooyoo for being inappropriate - cringesome when I think about some of the 75 word wonders I've seen happily floating around here posing as opinions and racking up the SUs and NUs! So here is a chance for me to put things "write", <groan now. No more puns> as I present to you a bright, shiny op on Wisden - the cricketers' bible. ~~~A love affair~~~ I have loved Wisden since I first discovered it, nestled in the school library in the early 80s, shortly after I discovered cricket. Unfortunate not to come from a cricket-loving family and even more unfortunate to be something of a geek, I buried myself in the pages of my fat yellow friend, musing over the exploits of the current generation and those that came before - marvelling over records which had survived a hundred years and more. The school library's collection of Wisdens was unsatisfactorily small, going back a 'mere' 20 years or so. Somehow, I felt that the presence of this tome would be further dignified by pages yellowing with age to match the dustjacket. In recent years, through a mixture of luck and judgement (mainly luck) I have built up a collection of Wisdens from 1946 to the early 80s, albeit with quite a lot of gaps(!) ~~~An historical record~~~ Wisden doesn't only reflect cricket history - more on that below - it reflects history more generally too. Yawn here, because I studied history, but it's fascinating seeing general history reflected through the pages of an annual. The 1946 edition is probably the ultimate example of this. Half the usual size, due to a post-war paper shortage, the adverts proudly proclaim that company x is b ack in business, having reconverted its machinery from making guns back to making cricket nets, or company y asks for patience with orders because of shortages! The photos (often the most interesting element) also include a shot of The Oval as a temporary prisoner of war camp. ~~~A cricketing record~~~ As an annual and an almanack, a certain amount of Wisden's pages remain unchanged, year on year. The sport being as old and well-established as it is, it is (by definition) rare for records to be broken and these do occupy a certain proportion of Wisden's pages. In fact, it is probably the records section for which Wisden is best known. However, this is but a small proportion of its 1,500 or so tightly packed pages. By far the majority of Wisden is an annual, reflecting the events, stories, achievements and statistics of the last cricket year. Over time, this builds up a wonderful record of the history of cricket, in pictures, words and numbers. ~~~Five cricketers of the Year~~~ For many, the "Five Cricketers" section is the first item they turn to when they pick up the new Wisden each year. To become a cricketer of the year, one is judged only on performances during the English season. The award can only be won once by any player. Despite those two curbs on its prestige, to be chosen as a Wisden cricketer of the year is still regarded a tremendous honour, with other (rival) cricket annuals and almanacks noting the award on players' records, which says much. Each of the honoured players is rewarded with a colour photograph and a pen portrait, outlining his career to date and the particular achievements of that summer. The Almanack usually strikes a balance between rewarding outstanding International players and county level players, often recognising a warhorse's triumphal season after a number of years of low-level performances. The nationalities of th e cricketers of the year can be seen as something of a barometer of English cricket's success. A proliferation of overseas players in the awards, taken from those playing against England or for the counties was something that occurred frequently in the 90s. The balance is now switching - a good sign, especially when one considers that the last Wisden editor resigned mainly (he said) because of being tired of reporting on the incapacity of the English game. ~~~Articles~~~ Each year, a number of high-quality articles are commissioned by Wisden. This year's edition (for example) includes an in-depth discussion of the match-fixing scandal, a county v country debate, a salute to Walsh and Ambrose, a farewell to the recently deceased Sir Colin Cowdrey and a discussion of English coaching techniques. There is also a brief obituary of Sir Donald Bradman, who died as the book went to print - the presses were held as a revised editor's preface was slotted in. If he had died one day later, there would have been no mention of the death of the greatest cricketer of all time, until a year after the event. (i.e. next year's Wisden!) In fact, this is the first time Wisden's print-run has been delayed since their printhouse was bombed in World War Two. ~~~Match reports~~~ Wisden carries a report on every first class match of the English season, as well as scorecards. These reports are necessarily brief, but also famously sharp, pugnacious and frequently amusing. There is also a summary given of each competition and a county-by-county breakdown with analysis of how the season went and the players who progressed or suffered a poor summer. ~~~Miscellaneous~~~ There are also details of the first class and international programmes around the world, minor cricket, English schools' cricket, womens' cricket and enough statistics to keep even the geekiest 12-year-old boy happy. Or a geeky 30 something. ~~~Summary~~~ Wisden is a weighty publication, both literally and figuratively. It is also pricey. I do not recommend you ever buy the soft-back edition. The saving is low and the binding does not last. Much of the pleasure of Wisden is keeping it for years and referring back - your soft cover editions just won't survive. It's also very pricey, at RRP of £29.99. Amazon do a great deal on the book - it's currently retailing at £14.99 + p&p. A good buy. ISBN: 0947766634 (In case you were interested) Wisden's Almanack? I love it. Just one problem - when I'm 80, I doubt I'll either be able to lift it or make out its rather small type. Then again, if I carried on the way I was when I was 12, I'd know it off by heart anyway.
John Wisden first published his Cricketing Almanac in 1864, and since then, Wisden has been published yearly, the original slender tome, now being a 1500 page monster. Wisden is synonymous with the game and the Five Cricketers of the Year is an accolade that is the sign of a successful cricketer, and whilst there are sometimes a few questions about the winners' credentials, the accolade is still revered in cricketing circles. Another accolade is the unofficial "Test Match World Championship" - table pitting all the teams in the Test World against one another, which originally published for general interest, is rapidly proving to be held in higher regard. (UPDATE 4/5/01 - the ICC have adopted Wisden's recommendation and in issuing their ten year plan, have enabled the Wisden proposal to take on a real shape.) Whilst there are other books that have a more glossy look to them none can match Wisden. As well as a run down of cricket around the world, with coverage being mostly centred on England, and Australia, with other countries still appearing, but with less comprehensive coverage than others, there is a great array of statistical data, and a fair few articles about the game of cricket. Over the years, some features have come and gone, although others remain constant. Indeed the 1988 edition of Wisden is the only one not to contain the laws of cricket in it. In terms of statistics, Wisden contains detailed of every test series, test centurions, career records, countless playing records, obituaries, and also focuses on the Test Series of the past calendar year and one day series as well as a full rundown of domestic cricket in the test nations, and a cursory look at cricket around the world. At 25 pounds in Paperback and nearer 30 for the hardback, a Wisden is by no means cheap, but that being said, the wealth of information is incredible. Whilst the dedicated cricket fan might get it every season, if you don't have the money, there are a lot of recent Wisdens available cheaply. One say from 1998 or 1999 often can be found in bookshops for about 12 or 13 pounds, and admittedly the records do get broken, so it won't be fully uptodate, but it is still a very useful reference book. I personally have every Wisden back until the early 1970s and I can always find something that interests me, especially being a fervent Somerset fan. Without realising it, I have managed to work my way though each and every one of them from cover to cover. I still enjoy leafing through the 1982 edition and reading about "Botham's Ashes" even though there are more thorough accounts available, such as the Telegraph Sports book entitled "Botham rekindles the Ashes".
For the true cricket fan Wisden Cricketers' Almanack is the bible. It is the ultimate cricket book with everything you would ever need or want to now about cricket. The 1998 version, which I own, was the 135th version of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and is surely the biggest selling cricket book of all time. If you are reading this then it probably means that you are a cricket fan and know everything there is to know about this book, so won’t bother reading this – but just in case you clicked on this by mistake (in which case you would have clicked on the back button on the toolbar, leaving me with no readers at this point) I will tell you all about Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. The book has a selection of 5 articles from the world of cricket followed by information about Wisden’s 5 cricketers of the year. It lists every player to have ever played Test Cricket – I bet you didn’t know (or care) that FGJ Ford played 5 Test Matches for England against Australia in 1894. This is followed by births and deaths of cricketers and then you can find out who were the previous winners of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year, dating back to 1889. Part 3 lists Test Match and First-Class records, while part 4 devotes 635 pages to the English cricket season including an extremely useful account of an Eton v Harrow school match. Overseas cricket, however, only gets less than 400 pages, the laws of the game less than 50 pages and the final section, “Miscellaneous” just 100! A lot of people will laugh at how people, like me, find a 1472 page book of statistics so interesting. But, if you love cricket it is very unlikely that you will get through the England v Pakistan 2nd Test Match without needing to know England’s highest seventh-wicket partnership against Pakistan at Faisalabad.
The most famous sports book in the world, Wisden has been published every year since 1864. Wisden 2006, the 143rd edition, includes coverage of every first-class game in every cricket nation, and reports and scorecards for all Tests and ODIs. Trenchant opinion, compelling features and comprehensive records make it the cricketers' bible worldwide. A perennial bestseller in the UK. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack is an essential companion for every follower of cricket.