Cricket for Americans: 10 April, 2019: Wisden Wisdom

The 2019 Wisden Almanack was published today.

The yearly volume — colloquially known as the ‘bible of cricket’ — has been published since 1864 without interruption, making it by far the longest running sport annual ever.

It contains a synopsis of cricket match reports for the England national team and extensive coverage of the English domestic competitions, including the women’s game. Its contents also feature coverage of the game internationally, book reviews, records matched or beaten, several pages of commentary on the state of the game (some of the best cricket writing around), and a section devoted to awards: the two stand out awards are the Wisden Leading Cricketer of the World award, and the traditional Wisden Cricketers of the Year list.

The Leading Cricketer of the World award has only only been around since 2004, and this year it was won again — for the third year running — by India’s Virat Kohli. And well deserved, too. There is no one in the game right now quite like Kohli. Watching him bat is like watching a summer’s day dance with Christmas morning. There’s nothing quite like it on earth. And he not only bats like no one else, he commands the field in the captain’s armband like no one else. The numbers, of course, speak for themselves: 2,375 at 68.37 across all formats, 700 more than his closest rival, England’s Joe Root. Those runs included 11 centuries in just 37 innings, most of them outside the familiar confines of southeast Asia.

The other on-field award of note — the Wisden Cricketers of the Year list — is the oldest award in cricket. It’s been around in its current format since 1902, though it dates back a little further than that, albeit with different criteria. Traditionally, it names five players who had the greatest impact on the preceding English Cricket season, and with only two exceptions — Plum Warner and Jack Hobbs — no one has received the award more than once. So it might just be the most coveted award in all of sport. This year Wisden’s five cricketers were Virat Kohli (for his performance during India’s tour of England), England internationals Jos Buttler and Sam Curran, Surrey captain Rory Burns, and women’s international Tammy Beaumont.

Other awards include Leading Women’s Cricketer of the World, T20 Cricketer of the World, etc. There are also awards for media: book, photo, etc.

It’s a handsome volume, and while difficult to find outside the UK, worth picking up if you are able to track one down. Amazon has them for sale for a rather outrageous price, and I am not sure if Wisden ships internationally, but I have an email into them checking.

I am looking to pick one up because, well, I was mentioned in it this year. Brian Carpenter writes a summary of Cricket blogs for the Almanack every year, and in this edition he was gracious enough to mention this nonsense here. I could not be more honored.

And it’s the second time he’s done so! He kindly gave me a mention back in 2015, as well.

It’s a small thing, but it means the world to me, and it is just such a joy to know that I am being read, and that people seem to like it now and again. And that across the globe cricketing pundits and cricketers past and present are cracking open the latest Almanack, flipping through, and possibly seeing my name, and coming to visit and perhaps read, or at least give me a passing thought.

I wrote a novel a while back. And the original ending has since been scrapped. But a quick synopsis is that a troubled middle aged man steals a priceless sculpture from a museum, a piece that meant the world to him, was his whole being. He ran from the law, met a girl, was caught, served time, and later returned with the girl to the museum to see the sculpture again:

They sat on the bench a while longer. And then he got up, took her hand and led her through the museum doors. And again it all came rushing back. The smell of the building, the music, the noise. But he pushed through it all. He checked in at security and then they were climbing the stairs to the second floor and then they were in the gallery and then there it was.

She sucked in her breath and let go of his hand. She put her fingertips as close to the glass as she could without actually touching it. Time flattened out and then stopped altogether. They stood there, as if they were in a place where time didn’t exist, separated from the whole world.

“I remember the first time I held it, I was sitting on my couch,” she said, suddenly. “And you were sitting on my floor. It feels like yesterday. It will always feel like yesterday. I remember that whole day like it just happened. It was a Sunday. I woke up and did laundry and called into work and then you were at my door and … and now here we are. And here it is,” she trailed off, moved her fingers across the glass.

They were quiet.

“Look,” she said, after a minute, pointing at the information card on the glass.

Underneath the piece’s provenance, which he knew by heart, was one new sentence:

Stolen in January, 2017; recovered in April, 2017.

“You’re part of its history now,” she said.

“So are you.”

She put her arm around his waist and her head on his shoulder.

A guard walked by. A school group filled the lobby with noise.

She pulled away, took a tissue from her purse, dried her tears, put the tissue away, took his hand, and looked up at him. “So what’s next?”   

“There’s a van Gogh in the gallery across the hall.”

“Show me.”

So he did.

~the end~

I couldn’t help but think of one line from that now scrapped ending when I received the news this morning about my inclusion in the Wisden Almanack: ‘You’re part of its history now.”

Cricket’s history is its spine, its infrastructure, it’s what holds the whole messy affair together. And the Wisden Almanack is how that history is recorded. And so with the small mention in this year’s Almanack, my blog is now part of cricket’s long, impressive, vast history.

I will never not be in awe of that.

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