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Often called the 'cricketing Bible', almost to the point of a cliché, Wisden Cricketers' Almanack will release its 150th edition next week. As he traces the history of Wisden and the challenges it faces in the modern era, former editor Matthew Engel writes in the Financial Times that Wisden offers "the illusion of timelessness, which is at the heart of cricket's appeal".
"I am not sure anyone quite understands it. What I have learnt is that it appeals most to people who love books first, and cricket second, not the other way round. That collectability is crucial. And that what readers love most is the way, searching for one fact, one gets diverted for hours: it is a reference book double-plus. Plus there is that solid, distinctive name: as Australian writer Murray Hedgcock once pointed out, Wisden would never have worked had the founder been John Smith, Jones or Robinson."
In the Telegraph, Simon Briggs says the iconic yellow jacket still marks a fixed point in a disorder world.
Stephen Moss pays tribute to the classic that reminds him of a brick. In the Observer, he muses that perhaps the real reason to collect it is so that "one can build a small house, a protection against the real world that helps its readers forget that time must move on."
There are few books on cricket that have had as powerful and as lasting an impact as CLR James' Beyond a Boundary. Fifty years after its publication, it is still regarded by many as the greatest book on the game. Writing in the Guardian, Selma James, wife of CLR, shares her insights into a book that her husband "had to write".
Establishing early the interconnection between cricket and race and class divisions opens the way for Beyond a Boundary to fulfil its author's full purpose: to draw out other startling connections - cricket and art, life in ancient Greece, even rewriting English social history with cricket's great WG Grace as a crucial figure. As startling as his connections is the light he sheds on each - not only cricket but every subject benefits from shattering boundaries. We are invited to reject the fragmenting of reality, and to see its diverse interconnections without which we are prevented from ever knowing anything fully - including our own reality. What do they know of cricket, or anything, if it is walled off from every other aspect of life and struggle?
As a lifeskills coach, one of the things that Michael Jeh teaches young cricketers is knowing when to walk away from a provocation fuelled by alcohol or drugs - situations that can quickly spiral out of control and end tragically for the people involved. In the aftermath of the assault on Jesse Ryder, Jeh, writing in the Mid day, says that recognising these situations is also an instinct that is honed over time.
It is this life lesson that I try to imbue in the minds of these young athletes who are used to living on razor- sharp instincts because that is the source of their sporting genius. And yet sometimes, there is that fine line between acting instinctively, and knowing when to defy instinct. Depending on the circumstance, either option could be a life-saver but the hard part is to know which button to push in which situation.
That is where repeated practice comes into play. For cricketers who are used to hitting a thousand balls a day, they often rail at the notion of sitting through workshops that simulate real life at a pub or a nightclub. Their young brains, still in the formative stage where neurons are making permanent connections, cannot readily grasp why it is necessary to practice life itself.
Since its inception, the Indian Premier League has gained recognition not just for the talent on display but for the role it has played in sustaining the sport around the world. Given this stature, the recent controversy surrounding the participation of Sri Lankan players and the IPL's response to the issue may have done the game a disservice, writes Mini Kapoor in the Indian Express.
The roll call of names is important because this expedient measure is, in the end, about them. It is not based on some abstract principle of not playing cricket with another country, which, highly debatable though it may have been, would have moved the discussion away from the field of play. As the state of play currently stands, Sri Lankan players are very much part of the IPL, they will play at other venues, and it is only on account of presumed security concerns in Tamil Nadu that they will not be allowed to alight on the Chennai ground. This move is, then, clearly not about using sport as an element of coercive diplomacy to pressure the Sri Lankan government to deliver on devolution, reconciliation and rehabilitation. It is only targeted at a bunch of individuals to make some point -- which is what exactly?
Before the Second World War, the majority of the English team were of a working-class background. When England took the field against New Zealand, that number dropped to one-third. BR from the Economist investigates the worrying trend.
Today's schools, obsessed with academic league tables, prefer to concentrate on more scholarly subjects. This means shunning cricket, which is seen as taking too long to play compared with other sports. Finally, cricket has also fallen victim to the ubiquity of football, which now dominates the sports media and is the primary sporting obsession for most youngsters.
This has led to a vicious circle. As fewer people play the game, there are fewer new teachers competent at coaching it. While most physical education teachers feel comfortable overseeing a football kickabout, cricket requires them to impart more technical skills. If they do not have them, they are more likely to turn to a simpler sport such as rounders to fulfill the "striking/fielding" requirement of the national curriculum.
In Tehelka, Baba Umar traces the growth of Jammu & Kashmir allrounder Parvez Rasool, stating that one of the biggest challenges he faces is shutting out political symbolism.
His achievements as a player are astonishing because of the odds stacked against cricketers from Kashmir. The weather, for a start, leaves fewer months to play cricket than in most other parts of the country and the lack of infrastructure means many club teams are forced to quit.
For many people, there are few things that matter more in life than brownie points with one's mother, and with the help of Sri Lankan comedian Jehan Ranatunga, Mahela Jayawardene has marketed a charity concert he is supporting as the ultimate way to earn Amma (mother) points. The youtube clip posted on January 31 has Jayawardene providing 10 tips on how to butter up mumsy, including comparing your mother's cooking favourably with other mothers' fare, fixing computers for your mother's friends, and dancing with your mother at weddings. Proceeds from the Ignite charity concert in Colombo on February 2 will go to the Maharagama Cancer Hospital.
Unsurprisingly, the other half of cricket's greatest bromance is doing pretty much the same thing around the same time. Kumar Sangakkara is teaming up with classical crooners The De Lanerolle brothers for a show supporting Sangakkara's Bikes for Life campaign - which provides bicycles to children in rural areas so they can attend school - as well as the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind. Rumour is that sadly, Sangakkara won't be singing, but if a healthy donation is on the line, you never know.