A welcome addition

Rob Smyth reviews the Cricinfo Guide To International Cricket

Rob Smyth
Cricinfo Guide To International Cricket edited by Steven Lynch (John Wisden & Co Ltd, 256pp) £8.99

Buy this book for £6.99 from Cricshop

For the previous generation it was easy. Test cricket was a happily scarce commodity: every match left a vivid and unique memory, every player had an specific identity. But then cricket reluctantly embraced pre-millennium overkill; whereas once Test matches had an almost Kubrickian integrity and infrequency, now they rattle along like Woody Allen films - with the same unsatisfying and often forgettable consequences. Whereas there were only 21 Tests in 1991, for example, last year there were 51. These days Test caps are given to any Tom, Dick or Shahriar - making it virtually impossible to know who's who or, more importantly, what they do.
Which is where Cricinfo's new book comes in. The Cricinfo Guide To International Cricket is an obvious companion to those old favourites, the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack and Playfair Cricket Annual. If Wisden is the bible and Playfair the train timetable, this guide is more of an mini-encyclopaedia of the dramatis personae of international cricket.
There are statistics and trainspotter facts for each player featured, but the strength lies in the classily-written profiles of the 200 players most likely to play for their countries next year. They range from the simply biographical to the insightfully psychoanalytical: the Australian and England profiles in particular are of a very high class, with a strong pool of writers who often evoke more in one sentence than other writers could in one chapter: Marcus Trescothick, for example, is "hefty, knock-kneed and genial", Andrew Flintoff "big, northern and proud of it" Adam Gilchrist the "symbolic heart of Australia's steamrolling agenda" and Brett Lee "the 21st century's first designer cricketer". There is also a photo of each player, which is handy if you're trying to tell whether that's Keith Dabengwa or Chamu Chibhabha standing at fine-leg.
There are gripes - there is no colour content, the paper quality is poor, some of the profiles of the lesser-known players are a little dry, and some will find it odd that Michael Yardy gets as much space as Shane Warne - but generally the editorial standards are high, and it successfully fills a considerable gap in the market. The Cricinfo Guide is cheap, cheerful and, like the bulging international calendar, here to stay.