LONDON A wintry blast at the start of the English season and the return of the national team after a chastening winter coincide with the publication of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanac under its youngest editor for 72 years.
Lawrence Booth, 37, has succeeded Scyld Berry as only the 16th editor of a publication which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.
Along with the game it chronicles, the almanac has sought to evolve with the times.
Readers seeking the laws of the game are referred to the Marylebone Cricket Club's website (www.lords.org) while the game's records will be regularly updated on Wisden's website (www.wisden.com).
Reassuringly for the traditionalists, the editor's notes reassert the primacy of test cricket and the danger of an increasing diet of the sporadically entertainng but mostly forgettable Twenty20 game.
"For any series not involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, three tests must be the minimum," Booth writes.
"Nobody denies the fun or rough and tumble, or argues that national boards should not prepare for their rainy day. Twenty20 is a vital part of a fragile ecosystem. But a playful scrap every few hours can grate."
Booth sounds a warning about the power of the Indian board (BCCI) while acknowledging the impact of their World Cup triumph last year in the game's spiritual and financial heartland.
"India have ended up with a special gift: the clout to shape an entire sport. Some national boards would struggle to survive without an Indian visit. But too often their game appears driven by the interest of the few."
The almanac is, as always, crammed with intelligent and informative writing.
Former England captain Mike Brearley, now a practising psychoanalyst, writes with sympathy and perception of the problems of depression in a professional sport when young men retire when their contemporaries in other fields are entering their prime.
New light is thrown on Sydney Barnes, maybe the greatest bowler to grace the game, and there is a chilling account of the court trial of three Pakistan cricketers jailed for corruption.
Tim Bresnan, Lancashire captain Glen Chapple, Alastair Cook, Worcestershire seamer Alan Richardson and Kumar Sangakkara are the five players of the year.
(Editing by Ian Ransom)
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