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Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2014

Marvellous, but why so serious?

Wisden 2014 gets stuck into the changes in the game's administration, and picks Dale Steyn as the leading cricketer in the world, but skimps on fun for angst

David Lloyd

April 9, 2014

Comments: 18 | Text size: A | A

Cover of <i>Wisden Cricketers' Almanack</i> 2014
For their cover, Wisden went with the man who played international cricket for nearly a quarter of a century © John Wisden & Co
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Being spoilt for choice cannot be an uncommon problem for the editor of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. Trying to fit a quart into a pint pot is probably par for the course, text-wise, but this year he might also have lost a minute or two's sleep over whose picture to put on the front cover.

Given that Australia, in the space of just a few months, turned a 0-3 Ashes defeat into a 5-0 victory - "one of the most remarkable and sudden upheavals in cricket history" as Wisden quite properly calls it - Michael Clarke could have been beaming out from the book's yellow background. Or Mitchell Johnson, who did more than anyone to make it happen.

Then again, Dale Steyn - the world's leading cricketer according to Wisden - would not have been a bad choice. And if the editor had wanted to reflect column inches written, and words spoken, around the globe, rather than runs scored, or wickets taken, Kevin Pietersen could be today's man of the moment.

Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year

  • Charlotte Edwards became the second woman to be selected by Wisden, following Claire Taylor in 2009. Edwards led England to back-to-back Ashes victories.
  • Others honoured were Shikhar Dhawan, Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers and Joe Root. Recognition is made of performances influencing England's international and domestic summer. Dale Steyn was the Leading Cricketer in the World for 2013, a year in which he took 51 Test wickets in nine matches at an average of 17 and, as Wisden concluded, was scarcely less lethal in one-day internationals.

And, having read Wisden's editorial, there was even a case for plonking the pictures of Messrs Srinivasan, Clarke and Edwards upon the front cover. But happily, Lawrence Booth - the man with the power to decide - rose above all these temptations and went with the final action shot of a player whose incredible career spanned almost a quarter of a century: Sachin Tendulkar. Well played, sir (Tendulkar and Booth).

Actually, action shot is a bit misleading. The picture in question is not of a gap-finding drive or pugnacious pull but of a slightly bashfully raised bat and a somewhat wistful upward gaze as Tendulkar walked off the field in Mumbai at the end of his final innings.

It is a serious, almost sad photograph - as if preparing the reader for a fair amount of what is to follow. For while all Wisdens are, to a greater or lesser extent, a celebration of cricket, this 151st edition takes quite a time to start putting up the bunting and popping the corks.

Why so serious, Wisden? Because there is a great deal to be serious about, might be the reply. Especially, but not exclusively for fans and followers of England. There is the whitewash, cricket that "reeked of attrition" even when victorious in 2013, the resignation of coach Andy Flower, the sacking of Pietersen, the poor selections, Alastair Cook's unimaginative captaincy - all of this is dealt with in the Editor's Notes. Just as well, really, the World T20 humiliation by Netherlands came after deadline day.

Even the administrators do not escape. Far from it, in fact. The ECB's decision to go along with Cricket Australia in support of India's blueprint for world cricket has Booth off his long run even before the Ashes are mentioned.

The Notes are, as always, well written and well-argued, and the whole Comment section, which takes up 128 of the near 1600 pages, is packed with wonderfully crafted, brilliantly researched and splendidly presented essays and articles. It's just that, to this observer at least, a bit more joy, or fun, or even mischief wouldn't go amiss. That's enough of the angst, might we give pleasure a go now?

It would be wrong to think Wisden doesn't have a sense of humour or struggles to take delight in the eccentricities of the game. Dreadfully wrong. If any reader is in need of a laugh, or a dose of the absurd, after working through a thorough review of the Decision Review System or The Introvert-Extrovert Balance; Character Recognition (I'm sorry, I didn't get beyond the headline of that one and may have missed a real rib-tickler), they should turn to Page 1584 and The Index of Unusual Occurrences.

Among the items listed therein are "County captain's wave interpreted as retirement", "High-five lays wicketkeeper low" and "Jimmy Anderson fixes Lancashire floodlights". You just have to turn to the item in question to find out more, don't you?

But look, Wisden will delight, entertain and inform those it always delights, entertains and informs. There is everything you could possibly want to read about Tendulkar (and who wouldn't want to read plenty?) and a brilliant choice in Charlotte Edwards as one of the Five Cricketers of the Year to name just a couple of other things.

What, though, of the man or woman, boy or girl, with just a flickering of interest in cricket? What if they happen, by some chance, to fall upon a Wisden and start turning a few pages? Might they just say, "flippin' 'eck, this old book needs to lighten up a bit?" Maybe next year, hey?

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 2014
Edited by Lawrence Booth
Bloomsbury
1584 pages, £50

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 2:11 GMT)

yes Indian bowlers are average but they managed to take 20 wickets in a test and 17 in the drawn test. they've come a long way! India, Pak, SL all have equal weaknesses and class. Hype on India is more because of no. of fans, money etc. but we're just the same as any other country

Posted by CricketAficionado on (April 10, 2014, 21:59 GMT)

@ erangaw, you are cribbing on not being allotted more matches, i would like to ask you a question, how many matches has srilanka won outside sl in the allotted matches? let me tell you, you guys have never won a single test match in Aus and Ind.

Posted by fwd079 on (April 10, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

@fairfan70 : its shipped worldwide from by its publisher, should be able to find/order one in your local branch of any better bookstore-chain.

Posted by fairfan70 on (April 10, 2014, 10:14 GMT)

Is a local edition available in India or the Almanac will have to be ordered from UK?

Posted by zxaar on (April 10, 2014, 7:47 GMT)

@Kingman75 " (Actually, Tendulkar's last three years were failures) rather than the triumphant Kallis moment scoring a century in a perfectly timed retirement. "------------------- Kallis was averaging 9 in 2013 until he faced club level indian bowlers for his last series. May be Kallis realized that he is not always going to play these indian bowlers and life is going to be difficult so he decided to retire.

Posted by Kingman75 on (April 10, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

Interesting that Wisden chose to highlight a failure of a retirement (Actually, Tendulkar's last three years were failures) rather than the triumphant Kallis moment scoring a century in a perfectly timed retirement.

Posted by xylo on (April 10, 2014, 4:17 GMT)

It is funny that Kallis did not deserve a mention in this article/book.

Posted by erangaw on (April 9, 2014, 21:30 GMT)

As a Sri Lankan fan I think ICC not giving equal opportunity to the Sri Lanka not allowing enough test matches. If that case these all the records will brake by Sangakkara and Herath

Posted by JG2704 on (April 9, 2014, 20:42 GMT)

Echo Flash_Hard's comms but I'm sure it will fall on blind eyes.

I'm wondering about Root's selection. He had a very decent start to the domestic season but had (bar 1 inns) a poor Ashes which led to him being dropped back down the order for the return leg. Broad or Bell may have been better selections or even Onions who never got on the Ashes tour

Posted by   on (April 9, 2014, 13:24 GMT)

@vinumys Only Shane Warne and Kumble(he averaged below 30 all over the world) took wickets regularly in Australia and South Africa. By your logic almost all great spinners in the world the Qadirs, Muralis, Prasanna, Bedi, Saqlain etc would be a waste of selection. Besides, Ashwin has only played a total of 3 Tests in Aus, SA and Eng. Its too early to deem him a failure when the likes of Murali having played numerous tests Aus still average 75.

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