New names, new faces
Cricinfo Guide To International Cricket 2008 edited by Steven Lynch (John Wisden & Co Ltd, 272pp) £8.99 (AUS$19.95, IND Rs295)
Depending on how many satellite channels you have access to and how much you regard sleep as an irrelevance, there will be times over the next few months when it's possible to watch wall-to-wall cricket. The players may not be pleased with the crammed schedule, but there has never been a better time to be an armchair fan.
However, if the bombardment of matches leaves you wondering if it's Stuart Broad or Mitchell Johnson running into bowl at Upul Tharanga or Dinesh Karthik then The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2008 is the ideal viewing companion. This is the second edition of the book, and like the first it includes profiles of the leading players from each Test nation along with a range of statistics from Cricinfo's extensive database.
Last year the quality of the player pictures and paper slightly let the finished product down, but in this edition both have been improved and the book has the "feel" of a weightier product. The standard of writing wasn't in question and it remains high, with a range of insightful and colourful profiles. The design and layout are sharp, with the players organised alphabetically and also indexed in their countries.
With the explosion of one-day internationals between Associate nations, the most useful new feature is the general overview of each of these teams and a summary of their major players. After not playing Tests since 2005, Zimbabwe have been downgraded from individual profile status to an Associate-style round-up. Only time will tell whether they move back up the pecking order.
There is more to the book than profiles. Another new section is a run-down of the ICC officials - so you will know who you are screaming at for that dodgy lbw - although one notable omission is Darrell Hair, who doesn't even warrant a mention in the list of international panel umpires, although the time frame with regards to his hearing wasn't in favour of the book's publishers.
Also available is a quick-reference stats section for each country, with the main facts and figures, such as most runs and most wickets. This can be used in conjunction with the "Marking your card" page at the front of the book, which outlines ten milestones "that should be reached" and ten "that might be".
A final point. The man on the cover, at least for the England and Australia versions, is Monty Panesar. Last year the chosen one was Andrew Flintoff. If Monty has 12 months to match the year endured by Flintoff, we may just have seen the birth of another cover-jinx among cricket annuals.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo