pp. 161 ff.

It’s been a roller-coaster, the last few weeks.

It culminated in the doorbell going on Tuesday and my partner solemnly placing an Amazon package in my hands, and my fingers fumbling clumsily with scissors, sellotape and cardboard as I opened it. The packaging you want to open quickest always gives the most resistance.

In February last year, I was fortunate enough to be asked to write the article on blogs for this year’s Wisden Almanack. It’s sitting beside me as I type this – custard-yellow cover adorned with celebrating England fielders in fitting recognition of Team England’s ascendancy to number one Test nation. It has the reassuring heft of scholarship, tradition, and high quality writing, and for the first time has the name of Lawrence Booth on the cover.

After skimming briefly over my article to reassure myself it was really in there, and the last year of reading, note-taking, collation, near nervous-breakdowns, writing, rewriting and polishing hadn’t all been some fever-induced dream, I put the Almanack back down and spent the morning eyeing it nervously, circling it from a distance. These things can take some time to sink in. Then, predictably, the cricket fan in me gained the upper hand, and I started greedily perusing the other articles like a starving man at a gourmet dinner: the Five Cricketers of the Year (Tanya Aldred’s “cheese sandwich” line in her piece on Tim Bresnan has rightly been quoted numerous times), Gideon Haigh’s trenchant take on the ICC, Mike Yardy’s moving account of the depression which forced him home from the 2011 World Cup, and most notably Lawrence Booth’s hard-hitting view on the responsibility cricket boards must bear towards the well-being of the game… these are just a few of the many pieces of superb writing that you’d expect from the longest running and most famous sports annual in the world.

My article, “More rewarding than the facts”, is on page 161, if you fancy reading it.

There are a lot of blogs out there. Theodore Sturgeon once said that ninety percent of everything is crap, and this applies as much to blogs as anything else. But there is some superbly informed and passionate writing out there. I didn’t just want to do a list of the best, most of which the average internet-savvy cricket obsessive will already be familiar with. I wanted to highlight the ones that afforded an alternative window on what was happening in the cricket world at the time – writing that would make you think, raise an eyebrow, shake your head, or possibly even all three.

I also wanted to show that blogs and blogging, if not yet quite accepted as legitimate journalism, are at least attracting the attention of those in the sport’s upper echelons – something I experienced myself when Mike Atherton was kind enough to comment on my article on his interview with Mohammad Amir.

At the end of the day, I am just a fan. I’m an intensely private individual and I value my anonymity; like most introverts, I don’t crave the limelight and have little interest in self promotion. I am happier on my own or amongst a few like-minded cricket obsessives at Grace Road on a rainy April afternoon than I am at black tie dinners.

But when Wisden calls, you answer.

My main fear was that I’d miss some hidden gem, some piece of inspired lunacy or creative brilliance, but once I’d gathered my material, the gist of what I wanted to say took shape and my train of thought suddenly acquired a destination; the writing became the easy part. This was aided in no small part by the encouraging approval Lawrence Booth gave to my proposal, his helpful suggestions, and his assured touch as an editor. For the foreseeable future, the Almanack is in extremely good hands.

The best thing, though, about being published in the Almanack is seeing my name included in a list of contributors who, between them, have written at least a dozen of the books that currently occupy pride of place on my bookshelves. I finally saw sense in deciding not to pluck them all off the shelf and take them with me to the Wisden dinner to get them signed. To be listed alongside them and to be sitting amongst them on Wednesday night in the Long Room at Lord’s was an incredible honour and a dream come true.

Thanks must also go to Jarrod Kimber, whose article on the top Tweets of the year filled out the third page of my article. It was Jarrod who passed my details on to Lawrence and gave me this opportunity.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the support and patience of my long-suffering partner, who once wryly observed that I can talk about cricket for four hours and not once repeat myself – and didn’t mean it as an insult (I think).

Cricket is a broad church which provides a welcoming sanctuary to a wide range of eccentrics and obsessives. I understand there was one such in situ at The Oval recently who mistook a pigeon for Jesus.

Me? Well, they let me write an article for the Wisden Almanack.

5 Responses to “pp. 161 ff.”

  1. Jon says:

    I’ve only just started reading this site – I suppose you have Mike Atherton to thank for that – but it’s pretty clear to me that I’ve been missing out. Congratulations and I look forward to more writing in the future.

  2. Masuud says:

    Been following you for some time now. Clearly one of the top boys around. Well deserved, colonel!

  3. Rizwan says:

    I, too, have only started visiting LSF very recently after it was mentioned somewhere on Cricinfo, no doubt a terrific writing and viewpoint is what I have found here. I am also waiting for my Almanacm to arrive, waiting expectantly!

  4. I’m also relatively new here – the Amir post that Athers commented on led me here too – and I’m really impressed.

    As someone’s who’s been around the blog scene for a while, it’s something I’ve always aspired to but have only got as far as appearing in a photo in the 2011 Almanack (and no, I wasn’t playing).

    You’ll be seeing me here again.

  5. AotearoaXI says:

    Congratulations – that’s one less thing on the Bucket List….. A piece in Wisden will do me cricket wise – I never quite made it as a player. Glad you enjoyed the evening with the glitterati – it’s richly deserved.

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