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Leatherbound Willows

Cricket’s source-book takes greater note of the women’s game, flags other relevant issues

Leatherbound Willows
Leatherbound Willows
Wisden India Almanack 2018
Bloomsbury | Pages: 912 | Rs. 699

Not too long ago it was known as the one of the most traditional cricket publications. But the Wisden annual now breaks one convention after the other every year, perhaps to keep moving with the fast-changing times. Last year, it featured a cricketer, Virat Kohli, for a second time (the original, yellow-jacketed Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack in its 155 editions has never featured any player a second time); this year, it has featured two women cricketers, both Indians, dismantling another tradition on its 2018 Wisden India Almanack. And this convention-­breaking idea for the cover was not restricted to the Indian version, which features a delirious Sushma Verma and Shikha Pandey exchanging a high five in celebration of Australian Beth Mooney’s dismissal in the 2017 World Cup semi-finals. Its international edition, too, has a woman on cover—England pacer Anya Shrubsole, who captured a six-wicket haul to deny India a win in the tense final.

Although Indian women fumbled at the final hurdle, they had striven heroically enough to become stars in their own right. So, Sushma and Shikha were deservedly given the pride of place on the distinctive blue jacket. Wisden honoured another distinguished Indian team member, off-spinner Deepti Sharma, India’s top wicket-taker in the World Cup, in a different way. She was picked as one of the six cricketers by Wisden for her superb performance with the ball; the others being K.L. Rahul, Priyank Pan­chal, Hasan Ali of Pakistan, Bangla­desh’s Tamin Iqbal and English­man Ben Stokes.

The Almanack doesn’t carry the immediate past season, but the one before that. It could ideally come out before the Indian domestic season starts in September-October.

Besides special articles on the women’s World Cup, Suresh Menon, in his 13-page Notes by the Editor, calls upon the parochial BCCI to patronise women’s cricket the same manner it does the men’s game. These ‘notes’ raise all the raging as well as the not-so-serious issues of the game, like the seemingly unending administrative mess in the BCCI, the windfall from the five-year IPL media rights, the proposed four-day Test matches instead of five, to name some.

Between 912 pages, the Almanack has discussed all that is relevant—or will not remain relevant—in Indian and world cricket. Besides covering all of India’s bilateral series and multi-nat­ion tournaments like the 2017 Cha­mpions Trophy and women’s World Cup, it has, as usual, covered all major domestic tournaments. How­ever, it would be welcome if the Wisden Alm­anack comes out every year just before the Indian domestic season starts in September-October. As of now, it doesn’t carry the immediate past season, but the one before that. For instance, the 2018 edition covers the 2016-17 domestic season, and not the 2017-18. It would be tough logistically to do this but maybe sometime in future it can happen. Despite this, Wisden India Almanack is cricket’s version of poetry’s Golden Treasury—a trustworthy compendium if ever there was one—where you will find every­thing that a cricket fan, follower and fanatic seeks and desires.

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