At the launch of the first edition of Wisden India Almanack three years ago, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had expressed a desire to be on its cover one day. The 2016 edition of the Almanack has the Indian ODI captain on the cover. At its launch during the Jaipur Literature Festival, after a session on sports and nationalism, we caught up with its editor Suresh Menon.
Does a compendium of cricket statistics and articles appeal to the cricketers themselves?
Wisden UK has been around for more than 150 years. Over the years, it has established a certain credibility which makes being featured here something to aspire to. At the launch of the first issue, where the Indian team was present, skipper MS Dhoni said the India Wisden gave them one more incentive to do well. ‘I would like to be on the cover; Virat would like to be on the cover.’ MSD said. These cricketers have grown up with the idea of Wisden: it is a relationship that has continued.
Who are the guest writers this year?
They include New Zealand’s greatest all-rounder Richard Hadlee, former Caribbean fast bowling great Michael Holding and former Indian captain Bishan Bedi, apart from cricket writers Mike Coward, Simon Barnes and Rahul Bhattarcharya. Plus, we have guest pieces by two actors. Naseeruddin Shah has written about collecting photos of cricketers as a child for his scrapbook. And Tom Alter has done a lovely piece on how he realised his ambition of playing for India. It could happen because he was shooting in the US for a Mithun Chakraborty film that also featured Sunil Gavaskar and Kirmani.
Do we get any insights into the minds of cricketers?
We have a piece by Paddy Upton about how to handle the mavericks. It is based on his interactions with Kevin Pietersen. David Papineau, one of the leading philosophers of the world, has written on the concept of cheating. “To claim a catch they haven’t made is like someone who enjoys a restaurant meal with friends but then sneaks off without paying,” he writes.
Have you introduced any new features this year?
There is a rich tradition of cricket writing in India, which has not got the attention it deserves. So for the 2016 Wisden India almanack, I have picked up old articles from archives in the public domain. For example, Vijay Merchant writing about the ways in which Sunil Gavaskar is different from him. This year, (Wisden’s reference for the season year is from October 1 to September 30) we have introduced a section called Beyond the Boundary, about people who have a deep impact on the game. But not many people know about them. The section is an attempt to acknowledge their contribution. This year, the obvious choice was Justice Mukul Mudgal, who set the ball rolling for the clean-up process in Indian cricket.
In the Internet age, a new generation of readers finds encyclopaedias and almanacks intimidating. Have you taken that into consideration?
The Google era audience is also happy to read a good article. There are very few long articles in the book. Even they would like to read engaging articles from cricket archives. The idea is to give them a good read and create slightly more lasting value than the Internet.
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