Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2022Martin Chandler |
Author: Booth, Lawrence (Editor)
Publisher: John Wisden
Rating: 5 stars
It is difficult to imagine Wisden ever getting less than five stars so, getting the rating out of the way early this year, it does so again for its 159th edition.
These days, as a subscriber, Wisden is delivered to my door every year, and I am told via email and text message just when DPD are going to turn up with it. It never used to be like that. Time was when I had to go and check the local bookshop every day from mid April onwards, and before that I had to rely on the off chance that my father would find the time in his working day to the same thing.
We lost my Dad back in 1989, when he was younger than I am now. It was far too soon and, as the man who introduced me to the pleasures of Wisden as soon as I was able to read, the arrival of a new edition always brings memories of him flooding back. All are good ones of course, especially as, almost fifty years on, I have now finally found it in my heart to forgive him for letting my younger brother have the first look at the 1974 edition. It was my own fault after all. If I’d played the match winning innings I had dreamt of playing against Baines Grammar School’s under 15s rather than getting out for a second ball duck I wouldn’t have been home until long after ‘our kid’ had finished with it.
Perhaps it was that thought that was the catalyst for my, half an hour after opening the 2022 edition, leaving my armchair and going to the study to pluck out the 1988 edition, the last the old fella had the opportunity to read. The Wisden he read that year had barely changed in half a century – what, I wondered, would he have made of this year’s model?
The first thing he would have done, knowing how keen I was that he look inside, would have been to make a huge of fuss of asking my permission to read my book, mimicking the overly polite with a hint of desperation manner which I used to deploy in order to get my hands on his Wisden. Having got over that little game he’d then have stared long and hard at the dust jacket. Would it be the image of Joe Root relegating the traditional Ravilious woodcut to a spot at the top of the cover that would caused his brow to furrow? No it would not, and I can guarantee that eventually his words would be ‘that’s a much brighter shade of yellow than it used to be’.
Would I indulge him on that one? I really don’t know, but I can say with certainty that he would have been fishing for a response along the lines of ‘you silly old sod, after 34 years the 1988 is bound to have faded’. To be honest I’d probably fall for it but, of course, will never know for sure.
But he’d have opened it eventually and, inevitably, would be greeted by something that still resembled what he knew and loved, but which in some ways had changed out of all recognition. When it came to change my Dad was much better than I am. I remember when the old Sunday League started and most men of his age and older really did not approve at all. I loved it of course, and so did he, and I have little doubt but that he would have enjoyed T20 from the off, rather than wait a decade like I did. I suspect he might also have derived some pleasure from The Hundred and the IPL as well, but even if he didn’t he’d have at least looked at them with a more open mind than I ever have.
The 1988 Wisden came in at 1,296 pages, whereas the 2022 has a whopping 1,536. This year 129 men and women are listed as contributing to the book, and another 50 acknowledged for their assistance. Back in 1988 there were 77 contributors, and they were the only names mentioned. The renowned Notes by the Editor and essays on the Five Cricketers of the Year apart there were just five feature articles in 1988 to go with the Obituaries and Book Review sections. This year Part 1 (Comment) and Part 2 (The Wisden Review) contain a myriad of narrative content and take up the first 261 pages.
Am I now going to get round to reviewing this year’s Wisden? The answer is that I’ve decided not to bother. It’s inevitably excellent for the reason I’ve alluded to above. For 129 different writers their job is to do the best bit of work they possibly can for the year’s cricketing bestseller, and they’ve got to achieve that otherwise there are doubtless plenty more keen to take their place. So it’s a given that they are all going to be at the top of their game, and in 2022 they certainly are.
So I will single out only man for mention, that being editor Lawrence Booth. In his Notes he has a great deal to consider and comment on this time round, and does so in his usual thorough and trenchant manner. There is just one thing he needs to be a little wary of though, that being that I found myself agreeing with every word he wrote. Now that doesn’t worry me in the least but, given that if I had a fiver for every time someone has said to me words to the effect that I ‘have some strange ideas sometimes’ I’d be a wealthy man, it might be something that should concern him.
And what would my Dad have thought of Wisden 2022? He’d have loved it, of course, just like I do, and indeed every one else who is held in thrall by our wonderful game.