“Wisden India Almanack” brings literary flourish with statistical accuracy
We have bowled into one more sanitised bastion. Nearly 150 years after John Wisden issued the first Cricket’s Almanack in London, Bloomsburry Publishing India, alongside its partners Fidelis World, has published the first edition of the “Wisden India Almanack”. Edited by seasoned sports journalist Suresh Menon, it has contributions by Bishan Singh Bedi, Anil Kumble, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanjay Manjrekar, Shashi Tharoor, Kamila Shamsie and Gidon Haigh. In his notes editor Suresh Menon makes an interesting point about the commercialisation of the game.
He says Bangladesh was hurried into the Test fold to strengthen the Asian bloc but India remains the only country which the Bangladesh team has not toured yet. “There is no money for India in a Bangladesh visit, and this is the bottomline for television and administrators. At another point putting IPL in perspective, Menon notes, “With its colour noise and razzmatazz, it is an American sport accidentally invented in India. Like pulp fiction, it demands a different standard of criticism.” He holds that it may not be long before Twenty 20 breaks away from the ICC to form an international body of its own.
Paying tribute to Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Bedi brings out the realities of the times in his own fearless ways. Bringing out Pataudi’s reliance on spin for both defence and attack, he cites an instance. “In an Irani Trophy match, the mighty Gundappa Vishwanath was batting on a double century when Tiger asked one of his quicks to bowl him a yorker. The bowler asked: On the off or leg stump.” Putting the phenomenon of Sunil Gavaskar in perspective, Sanjay Manjrekar writes, “I have a notion that the Gavaskar batting mechanism functioned best when it was faced with quality bowling…He was like those great vocalists who sang best in the company of accomplished musicians.” Talking about his cult following, Manjrekar says some local batsmen were famous, not for the runs they scored but because they looked like Gavaskar when they batted.
Besides detailed statistics on the matches played last year, there is an exhaustive section on records where you learn that Courtney Walsh holds the distinction of scoring most ducks! There is an essay by journalist-turned author like Rahul Bhattacharya where he talks of the 281 era. Yes, the score mounted by VVS Laxman against Australia in Kolkata. He describes it as a generation which rescued us from the basest insult to sport: match fixing. He points out how Kumble refuses to share studio with a pundit who was tainted in the fixing-scam. How Ganguly and Dravid took on the speculative media with a straight face and how Laxman’s 281 came on the same day when another Laxman – Bangaru – was caught on camera accepting bribe. Read on…