Sports book review: Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac 2013. Edited by Lawrence Booth
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In 1864, as he pondered over the options for generating an income during his retirement, John Wisden happened upon the idea of writing and publishing an annual amalgam of cricketing and other sporting facts.
Later realising he should focus exclusively on cricket, the 1865 edition of his almanac did just that and Mr Wisden’s retirement problems were solved.
While the rest of us may only dream of replicating such a simple strategy as a means of producing a regular income in our dotage, we may still enjoy Wisden’s Almanac which this year celebrates its 150th birthday.
A few years ago, it appeared that Wisden, cricket’s greatest, longest-standing arbiter of facts, that quintessentially British publication, was about to be consigned to world cricket’s long-on boundary by the internet, although thankfully, it has enjoyed a significant revival since.
The latest edition, published on 11th April, brings together the game’s finest writers, its most amusing tales and enough statistics to satiate the cravings of a cricketing anorak XI.
Editor Lawrence Booth refers to it as a ‘social history’ for its commentary is not limited to cricket. It’s the type of book you can indulge yourself in; where you may read of accomplished openers who could build an innings, of players who ‘walked’ without the need for a video referee and of bowlers whose sole intention was not to inflict harm upon their opponents.
Apart from the action itself, two of cricket’s greatest joys are its literature and constantly-changing collection of facts and figures, beloved by young boys of all ages. There is something special about happening upon an unusual fact in print that you may have overlooked for years.
Quiet afternoons replete with sunshine, a flat cricket square, two evenly-matched teams and possibly a warm beer may offer a vision of an England which, regrettably, no longer exists, but armed with your copy of Wisden, it’s possible to believe it does, however fleetingly. For this and a host of other reasons, the 150th edition is worthy of a place on every sport lover’s bookcase.