Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Wisden (Non) Controversy

There has been quite a bit of criticism of the Five Cricketers of the Year chosen by Wisden, as part of its annual exercise - most of the criticism stems from either ignorance or just sheer stupidity. Much of this criticism has emanated from the sub-continent and frankly, it is embarrassing. Now, let me admit here that I don't count myself among Wisden devotees and Wisden hardly is the last word on cricket. Having said that, one has to understand what Wisden's annual list of five outstanding cricketers represents, before reaching all kinds of conclusions. The five cricketers of the year are chosen from amongst those that play in the English season, i.e., either for the English national team or in the County circuit. Now, there was a time when this list was a fair representation of the best talent in the world, because both England and the counties had world-class talent. That has hardly been the case in recent times. But Wisden has chosen to stick to tradition, and even if one does not like it, it's only fair. After all, Wisden cannot be dissociated from the English game. The brouhaha over the composition of the five players this year, coming as all of them did from England, is therefore totally unwarranted. It is not entirely surprising some media outlets in India have picked up on this without even basic consideration. But even by their standards, The Indian Express' twisting of Wisden's comments about Tendulkar are shocking. A few seasons ago there was a major uproar over the fact that none of Tendulkar's test innings was highly rated in a list of the all-time 100 best innings. Underneath these controversies lies a stark truth - India, fueled by the media, craves for recognition from Western quarters. When our icons are not held in the same esteem by Western media or public, it tends to upset us a great deal. One suspects this will continue to be the case for a while. So long as dignity and self-esteem are at a premium at home, this will be the case. I have sometimes wondered whether the cricket the English play is the same game that we play; whether the game that Wisden (not Wisden Asia Cricket) writes about is the same game that we love. For me, Wisden represents the old establishment, their recent bitter criticisms of the ICC not withstanding. The same establishment that was quite happy to keep cricket confined in the long room at Lord's and refused to adapt to the changing world. But that is a whole different issue and even for me, this is not acceptable. - NK


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have sometimes wondered whether the cricket the English play is the same game that we play; whether the game that Wisden (not Wisden Asia Cricket) writes about is the same game that we love."

Certainly not- the way the game interacts with its host society is different in each of the Test nations. You only need to read 'Beyond a Boundary', and the West Indies cricket community online, to know that cricket affects people in totally different ways there to the way it does anywhere else.

My own cricketing values are totally different, because I'm Australian. Many Australian fans got an eyeopener when Australia beat India in Melbourne in 99/00 season. Australians were pleased, because we had won, but the Indians were also delighted, because Tendulkar had made a century. This attitude is profoundly different to the way Australians view the game.

Top notch post.

Scott Wickstein

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is part from the not so indian media - the Guardian

read the last bits..

"For England's Test squad, the awards recognise a real renaissance. Now Harmison's seven wickets against West Indies in Jamaica, Strauss's century against New Zealand in his maiden Test at Lord's, Key's 221 against West Indies on the same ground, Trescothick's two centuries in one match against West Indies at Edgbaston and Giles's belated emergence as a match-winning slow bowler have been rewarded by what would probably be called cricket's Oscars, if seniority did not demand that the Oscars be known as Hollywood's Wisdens."

11:18 PM  
Anonymous akr said...

I do get the impression that there is a certain amount of animosity towards Wisden in the Indian media, especially post WAC becomina very successful and widely read magazine. The attacks wrt the Sachin controversy seem almost mindless, and worse still, churlish. If the Express could be accused of largely shooting from another shoulder, the article here is plainly prejudiced.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous saggy green said...

one small point to note:
the wisden 5 is selected from
a)english test and county players
b)test teams that toured england that season.

...hence Dravid winning it a couple of years ago... and given that England won every home test last year, it makes sense to me.

In 2003 Wisden introduced 'the Wisden 40' the best forty players from around the world that year... I haven't seen the list yet, but I'd be very surprised if Tendulkar didn't make it onto that list for his 241 in Sydney alone.

2:10 AM  

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