On the Front Foot: Wisden has its place but Playfair guide is a pocketful of wonder

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The Independent Online

The most indispensable of cricket annuals is out. No, not the estimable Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the 147th edition of which was published last week and as ever, in its recently evolved guise, contains a plethora of thought-provoking essays on the state and future of the game. No, not Cricketers' Who's Who, first published in 1979, which has become a source of fun on what cricketers' interests are outside cricket (and more to come on that). And not the Cricinfo Guide listing the world's top 200 cricketers. It is, as any former schoolboy of a certain age will know, the great Playfair Cricket Annual. It is 63 years old this year and remains a pocketful of wonder.

Playfair contains scorecards from all the Test matches in the world played in the previous year, all significant international and first-class records and the records of all current English players. But its main mission is what it always was, to add the statistical flesh to county cricketers. Under its new editor, Ian Marshall, as under its previous editors, it records all the counties and their players. The nature of modern county cricket means it cannot be exhaustive for the present season because players are coming and going now as if they are casual labour in a down-at-heel hostel. But it is thorough enough to quickly settle arguments on age, school, playing styles and career-best figures. Marshall has taken over from the late Bill Frindall and has kept faith with the age-old principles. He has tinkered by moving the Test scorecards to the front but has moved with the times by paying more heed to Twenty20. The dropping of second XI and minor counties coverage, including their fixtures, is a sad reflection of the times. They will be missed by all overgrown fourth formers.

Records quickly broken

It is a hazard of annuals that their records sections are quickly overtaken. The 2010 Playfair could have done without Jaik Mickleburgh and James Foster leaping into action with their 339 for the fifth wicket at the Riverside. It consigned to history the 316 made by Nasser Hussain and Mike Garnham in 1991 against Leicestershire. There is always sadness when the old names are erased and in the case of Essex it is to be hoped that the great warrior, Johnny Douglas, is preserved for his part in the sixth, seventh and ninth-wicket partnerships made in 1923, 1914 and 1921, before even Playfair was born.

ICC Tests our patience

The International Cricket Council board meets in Dubai tomorrow when we are told it "will continue the discussion on the context and content of international cricket as well as hearing an update on the market research being carried out in conjunction with [an] ICC working party." This means that the efforts to save Test cricket have still come to nought. More common sense and less market research will be welcome this week.

IPL's a free-to-air turn-on

In the next few days, the Indian Premier League will reach its climax. It has never had a higher profile in this country thanks to its being shown on ITV4. The IPL is flawed in several respects and we may not have heard the last of the tax raid on various offices in Mohali last week. But if those running cricket in this country have not worked out by now that the game needs some high-profile free-to-air presence then they never will.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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