For 140 years, cricket fans in search of light reading have turned to Wisden. But this week the cricketers' bible faces a challenge from a new rival. Spin, a monthly title to be launched on Thursday, will target younger fans, with a format based on mainstream men's magazines.
The magazine hopes in particular to appeal to British Asians. The first issue will include a preview of next month's India-Pakistan series, including interviews with Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, Rahul Dravid, the world's number two batsman, and Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's English coach.
Imran Khan, the Pakistani MP and former cricket captain, will write a monthly column, and Phil Tufnell, who gained a reputation as the bad boy of English cricket, is the magazine's first cover star.
Duncan Steer, the editor, believes the £220m four-year television rights deal between the England and Wales Cricket Board and BSkyB, announced in December 2004, proves the public appetite for cricket.
Mr Steer said: "It's a young, mainstream audience. Sky bid big money for the rights, sponsors are putting big money into the game, but when it comes to the magazines, it looks a bit old-fashioned. Cricket is not a fringe activity. Our aim is to say it's exciting."
Since September 2003, when Wisden Cricket Monthly merged with The Cricketer to form The Wisden Cricketer, there has been only one magazine devoted to the sport in the UK. The title is closely associated with the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, named after its founder, the "small but accurate" 19th-century fast bowler John Wisden, which has been published yearly since 1864.
Mr Steer saidSpin would offer a different take on the sport from Wisden. "They are more Anglocentric and more traditional. Our approach is like that of a mainstream men's magazine in terms of editorial style. A lot of sports now have magazines that cover their sport in the same way as music is covered."
But John Stern, the editor of The Wisden Cricketer, said his magazine was not old-fashioned. "The name is traditional in that it is synonymous with the Almanack which has been around for 140 years, but it is an international, glossy, mainstream magazine that appeals to fans of all ages, male and female."
He added: "We welcome a new magazine into the marketplace. The fact that Spin is launching would indicate to us that cricket is on the up and that interest in cricket is increasing."
Spin will launch with a cover price of £1.50 and a print run of 70,000, but Mr Steer said he would be "delighted" to achieve anything like the 35,000 copies that The Wisden Cricketer sells each month.
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