Wisden: a bible, a monthly magazine and a furore

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The Independent Online
Cricket has been surprised and taken aback, not for the first time, by the furore over Robert Henderson's article. The 58-year-old editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, an arm of the Getty empire, is David Frith. Like all good editors, he enjoys controversy, and this uproar has come at a time when his magazine, in deadly combat for circulation with the older,more Establishment The Cricketer, has just had a face-lift.

Not that Frith is a Kelvin McKenzie or a Piers Morgan. He will have published Henderson because, as he has says, the topic is of legitimate interest to all his readers, "when you can get through all the hysteria". Frith is at heart an historian, an authority on the Edwardian Golden Age, Australian cricket and cricket memorabilia. He is a close friend of Sir Donald Bradman.

Frith once worked for The Cricketer, which, since the Twenties, has widened its appeal from founder Sir Pelham Warner's ambition to record public school, university and county cricket. When Frith left, he was shrewd enough to use the name Wisden, under licence, and for the first 12 years of its life, the magazine was totally independent of the world- famous Wisden's Cricket Annual. The two publications are now under the same roof, and the Annual's editor, Matthew Engel, is - along with David Gower, Bob Willis and Mike Atherton - a member of the Monthly editorial board.

Frith has always been an iconoclast, and the Annual has also taken on a slightly anti-Establishment tinge under its recent editors, Graeme Wright and Engel. Wright made way for Engel while composing his book Cricket: A Game Betrayed, in which he fiercely attacked the creeping commercialisation overtaking the sport.

Engel, a Guardian columnist and former cricket correspondent, shook traditionalists with his radical revision of the Annual's format, his omission of such sacred relics as the list of Oxbridge Blues and the cutting back of the names in Births and Deaths.

Significantly, Henderson quotes Engel's editorial in this year's Annual: "It cannot be irrelevant to England's long-term failures that so many of their recent Test players were either born overseas and/or spent their formative years as citizens of other countries ... There is a vast difference between wanting to play Test cricket and wanting to play for England."