An all-encompassing read

The reviews of domestic and international series are an integral part of the almanack. There’s something there for everyone: casual fan and the aficionado will both find there is much food for thought.

Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack. Edited by Lawrence Booth. £55.

On the cover of the 2019 Wisden Almanack is a defining image from India’s tour of England last year. Alastair Cook, who retired from international cricket, following the fifth Test against India at the Oval, is all smiles posing with James Anderson.

The duo had been instrumental in ensuring the team’s pre-eminence in the five-day format, but with Cook walking into the sunset, the symbolic passing of the baton is now complete.

“What can be said unequivocally was that Cook was a model Test cricketer. His last two years in the England side came at a time when mendacity has never had it so good in public life, whether in the Brexit debate or in Donald Trump’s tweets,” writes Scyld Berry.

The left-handed opener had been a behemoth in Test whites and the country’s reinvention as a one-day powerhouse in recent years, especially, in the lead up to this year’s World Cup coincided with the 33-year-old’s swansong. The 156th edition of the Almanack, edited by Lawrence Booth, takes note of the England one-day team’s methodical transformation.

Virat Kohli

The Indian men’s captain was named the Leading Cricketer in the World for an unprecedented third year in a row by the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. Kohli, who amassed 2735 runs across the three formats in 2018, is only the third cricketer ever to have won the award more than three times after Don Bradman (10 times) and Jack Hobbs (8 times). “Kohli, on song can make adversaries panic,” comments Tunku Vardarajan. "Comparisons with Vivian Richards are made with increasing frequency. Before last summer, those comparisons sounded excessive, if not foolish. Now, they do not seem unreasonable.”

Ball-tampering

The year gone by was a turbulent one for Australian cricket, with three of its star players Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft banned from international and first-class cricket for their involvement in the ball-tampering incident during the Newlands Test against South Africa in March 2018.

In his chapter on the acrimonious episode, Gideon Haigh writes, “It had lent Australian cricket the look of English cricket in the 1990s — anxious, introspective, joyless, vulnerable.” In his notes at the beginning, Booth writes the outrage in the aftermath was ‘disproportionate’ but is quick to point out that “To cheat so brazenly confirmed a widely held suspicion: Australia believed they were above the law.”

The reviews of domestic and international series are an integral part of the almanack. There’s something there for everyone: casual fan and the aficionado will both find there is much food for thought. Then there are parallels drawn between Imran Khan’s cricketing career and his rapid ascent as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, making the almanack an all encompassing read.