Almanac(k) Cricket: The Getting of Wisden

The cricketer’s bible. I’d known of it for as long as can remember, possibly absorbed from the cricketer autobiographies that studded my dad’s bookshelves, or from the writings of Mike Coward as I pored over every cricket-related word in The Advertiser.  But I reckon I was on the cusp of leaving my teens before I actually saw one, at a bookshop in Rundle Mall.


In its squat bulk it really was rather like a Bible, not what I’d expected. I’d guess I’d imagined something more like the usual periodicals, sort of like a Football Budget only for cricket. I don’t think I’d realised it was an annual. A quick flick revealed an alluring mix of statistical tables and articles, but as an impecunious youth I baulked at the cover price.


Fast forward a quarter century or so, and recently retired colleague Dicko comes into my office at work with a proposal. Apparently his better half has put her foot down and insisted on a substantial freeing up of space at home.  An impending downsize may have been a factor. As a result, he was looking to offload the better part of a lifetime’s worth of Wisden. Without looking it up, I was certain the commercial value of this collection had to be well into three figures, and I was equally sure Dicko knew it too. But his main concern was that the voluminous volumes went, ideally together, not just to some speculator, but rather to someone who would actually read and appreciate them. Well, that was something I could offer, so hands were shaken and, for a consideration involving a quantity of McLaren Vale shiraz, the deal was done.


Despite best efforts on both my part and hers, my beloved has never been a cricket appreciator. So having borne the tomes home, I faced the same domestic space negotiation issue as Dicko had. After sundry negotiations and sacrifices (farewell, Australia’s Heritage), accommodation was found on the staircase shelf.


The Wisden collection in situ [Source: Author]

Thus the journey began, from the earliest in the collection (95th edition, 1958) onwards. So what are the 1000-odd pages of a Wisden like? Large portions are the expected compendium. So many records, pages of permutations from triple centurions to wicket aggregates and team totals, with crowd numbers and gate receipts to boot. Scorecards, of course, for every international first class match, plus County Championship (not that I lingered long on these) and Sheffield Shield. There are other elements I’d heard of, like the featured Five Cricketers of the Year.


But it’s a good deal richer than that. Accounts of international tours, including both series overviews and narratives of individual Tests. Portraits of famous players like Peter May, Denis Compton, Richie Benaud and Jim Laker, plus some I’d mostly forgotten about, like the Rev. David Sheppard. One particular gem was a gentleman’s reminiscences of cricket that included watching Dr. W.G. Grace play. Another was the 1968 edition tribute to Sir Frank Worrell following his death aged just 42 – what an extraordinary man he must have been, and what a loss. And reading the work of cricket writers that otherwise I knew only by their considerable reputation, like Sir Neville Cardus and R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, John Arlott and Henry Blofeld.


Societal attitudes have undergone some profound shifts since those volumes were penned. Hence it was with some trepidation that I read the accounts of the gathering clouds over South Africa’s international cricket status, half-expecting to find some cringe-inducing wish for cricket to proceed irrespective of any diplomatic difficulties or racist team selection policies. But I found the accounts and their respect for principles of fairness stand up very well in today’s light.


So far I’ve reached 1975. A particular fascination has been tracing the rise of players who were previously only introduced to me through appearing fully formed before my seven-year-old self in World Series Cricket. Especially World XI players like Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Tony Greig and Mike Procter. Speaking of WSC, I’m looking forward to 1977, and applying full hindsight to see whether there was any inkling of what was coming.


It’s a pretty great thing, the original Almanac(k).  What a good idea to have something like it for footy…




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About Mark Duffett

Expatriate Croweater in Tasmania, still following Centrals in the SANFL. You can take the boy out of Salisbury, but...


  1. You said your collection starts from 1958, Mark, but you didn’t say when it ends – though since you’re “up to” 1975, I’m guessing it goes a lot longer than that, possibly up to current edition?

    A couple of years ago I decided to off-load my collection of Wisdens, which was 1975 plus every year 1978-2017, but I couldn’t find a taker, not even the better known cricket book dealers. If anyone reading this is interested, at a modest price, leave a reply and I’ll respond with a link for getting in touch.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    It’s a tricky situation solving the simultaneous equation of domestic harmony, shelf space and the allure of a collection of sporting records at one’s fingertips. Even famed Adelaide mathematician Bob Neil would struggle with that one.

    Which is why I cringe every time Mrs Swish asks me when I’m returning the bulky collection of 1970s minor round Footy Budgets that I’ve been the temporary custodian of for nearly four years.

    Let me know when you get to Glenn Bishop’s season for the Leicester Seconds in the mid-80s Mark.

  3. Mark Duffett says

    G’day TJM, the last edition in the collection is 2013, however there is a gap of 5 in the mid-1960s. I’m a bit surprised to hear of your disposal difficulties – if impressions from a quick google of Amazon etc can be believed, the going rate for used copies of individual editions is in the $30-$50 range. I guess I’ll find out for myself if my beloved gets her way one day…

    Your collection would be of similar value, Swish. Four years doesn’t sound like enough to do it justice.

    I’ll be in touch at the first sight of G. Bishop. For now I’m revelling in the novelty of a more than competitive SA Shield team, not coincidentally with three Chappells.

  4. As a collector of cricket books, I love this, Mark.
    I am rapidly running out of – nay, I have run out of shelf space for my cricket books.
    Like you, I also have a Wisden collection stretching way back

  5. Rulebook says

    Books and domestic harmony one of life’s rich problems in more ways than one.I admit my Wisden interest is mainly shield wise and likewise when SA were competitive unfortunately that side of things doesn’t take up enough room.Your bookshelf need a copy of The Definitive Rulebook? Thank you

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