Same format, same class
It's been a tumultuous 12 months for international cricket, and the following year promises to be no less dramatic as the Test game tries to ward off the increasing dominance of Twenty20. It is therefore comforting to find something where you know what you are going to get.
The latest version of The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket follows the format of the two previous editions, and gives a rundown of all the players expected to appear at the top level over the next 12 months. Compact profiles, allied with extensive statistics from Cricinfo's huge database, make for a valuable, quick-reference tool for anyone trying to keep up with who's who.
Products such as this don't offer huge scope for development - the basic premise is simple - but with Steven Lynch at the helm one can be assured of a readable and high-quality product. With a crystal ball in hand, it is interesting to see who is being tipped for international honours in the near future. Kent opener Joe Denly is the biggest punt, and is one of only four players included who didn't have an international cap when the book went to print. The other three are all Australians - Bryce McGain, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle. Siddle has since played a Test, McGain would have done except for injury.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those clinging to the hope for a recall, such as Michael Vaughan. Some, of course, have already departed, including Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly. One notable omission is Pakistan's Mohammad Asif, so perhaps there is some inside knowledge on his future.
The element of prediction and the constraints of the print format means there is always the risk of it being caught off guard. For example, there is no entry for India's latest legspinner, Amit Mishra, who will be giving England few sleepless nights in the weeks ahead. Looking at the bigger picture, it remains to be seen how long books of this style will survive in an age where information is readily available online.
The honour of the English cover this year goes to Kevin Pietersen as he prepares for 12 months that will define his career, and he also appears on the Indian version, while the Australian edition carries Ricky Ponting. The battle between the two cover stars is the most eagerly anticipated clash of 2009, and whoever comes out on top will have a new-look profile next year.
The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2009
edited by Steven Lynch
John Wisden £8.99; Rs350; Aus$19.95