Long Haul

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Simon Robinson

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To many, cricket is a puzzling sport: a game in which players break for tea and matches can last for days yet still end in a draw. But over the past couple of decades, cricket has undergone a revolutionand, more recently, so has its bible, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. One-day international cricket, first introduced in the 1970s, has brought new fans, energy and tactics to the sport by condensing play into a few hours; the faster style of play has also spilled over into five-day Test cricket. And the center of cricketing power has shifted from England and Australia to Asia, a change made manifest by the International Cricket Council’s announcement last month that after 96 years at Lord’s, “the home of cricket” in London, it would move its base to Dubai. Wisden is keeping up with the changes. The annual has been compiling the game’s records, arbitrating its controversies, and naming its greats since it was first published by John Wisden, an accomplished English cricketer, in 1864. But over the past few yearsespecially under the stewardship of New Zealand writer Graeme Wright and its current editor, British newspaper journalist Matthew Engelthe Almanack has been updated for the 21st century. A photograph now graces the front cover, replacing the old wood engraving of two Victorian gents in top hats playing cricket, which had appeared on the cover since 1938. Inside, there are well-written features alongside the usual lists of records and scorecards of all major cricket games from the previous year, and a section on cricket’s spread to new parts of the globe. “I wanted to change the perception that this was just a book of statistics,” says Engel. “Cricket must change and does change, and Wisden is part of that process.” This year’s edition includes stories on the crisis in Zimbabwean cricket after most of the national team went on strike over differences with the selectors; controversial changes to the rule governing “chucking” (illegally throwing the ball as opposed to bowling it); and a look at the way the Asian diaspora is spreading the game to noncricketing countries. Cricket in Iraq, North Korea or Rwanda? You’ll find it in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2005.

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