Wisden Cricketers of the YearArchie Mac |
Author: Wilde, Simon
Rating: 4.5 stars
2013 was Wisden’s 150th year. The title for which they are most noted, The Cricketers’ Almanack, was just the first in a number of magnificent tomes to be printed by their publishing arm Bloomsbury in 2013. Some of the others which you can find reviews on site for are: The Essential Wisden, and the inaugural Indian Wisden
Those mentioned above are all quality productions, however, another of their 2013 releases, the Wisden Cricketers of the Year is, visually, in a class of its own, being one of the most lavishly produced cricket books ever released. The book is a bravura compilation of the oldest and still arguably the most significant award in world cricket. The charm of the award is that no player can win it more than once*, which accounts for the high number of recipients. 570 players have been recognised since the Almanack chose “Six Great Bowlers of the Year” in 1889.
The 570 players are an eclectic lot. They represent every Test nation and include one woman; Claire Taylor who represented the England’s women cricket team with great distinction in the season of 2008. The award itself has changed a few times over the years especially in the early days. From the initial six great bowlers they had a number of different titles, such as batsman, wicketkeepers and on one occasion five young batsman of the season. The one rule was that the players chosen had to have performed during the English cricket season, although even this changed in 1997 when Sanath Jayasuriya was selected even though he did not play during the English summer. Despite these quirks and adjustments through the years the award has continued to be a most sought after honour for the games’ elite.
It was interesting to discover that the primary reason 1889 editor, Charles Pardon started the tradition was so he could include photographs in Wisden. This was also the primary reason different players were selected each year. The pen portraits that accompanied the players, especially in the early editions, can be of a dry nature, concentrating as they do on statistics and performances in matches and containing a minimal amount of personal information. This can be interesting when reading about five players but 570 may be a struggle even for cricket tragics.
Thankfully the fine cricket writer Simon Wilde, has written fresh entries for all the players. With hindsight he is able to tell us what became of all the cricketers and he does not shy away from controversy. He informs us of nervous breakdowns, marriage breakups, suicides and financial hardships. Wilde also injects the humorous and unusual such as Adam Hollioake after bankruptcy, at the age of forty, taking up professional boxing and cage fighting.
Simon Wilde’s captivating essays add the final touch to this magnificently produced book. With full colour printing throughout and a large coffee table format that our photographic image does no sort of justice to, the production is first class. A number of the photos will be unfamiliar to even the most experienced cricket book reader. In a publication of almost 400 pages, I noticed two minor factual errors and one insignificant typo. The detail to care and excellent complementary statistics by Phillip Bailey which are provided for each English season makes this one of the most beautiful cricket books ever produced. Simply a must have.
For the serious collector there is also a special leather-bound version, which is limited to 150 numbered copies, bound in dark green leather, and signed by 10 Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
*’Plum’ Warner and Jack Hobbs were recognised by Wisden with solo photos to commemorate special achievements after previously being recognised as cricketers of the year.