Lawrence Booth, the editor of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, joined Yas Rana and Jo Harman on the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast to discuss the launch of the famous yellow book’s latest edition.
One topic up for discussion was what the immediate future holds for the book, with the coronavirus pandemic already derailing a healthy chunk of the 2020 English summer.
Yas Rana: What happens to the 2021 Wisden Almanack if there’s no cricket this summer?
Lawrence Booth: Well, there still will be a Wisden next year, so I’ll start with that. The only question is how thick it will be, how much cricket we’ll have to report in it. There will be some cricket because there was some cricket in January and February elsewhere around the world, so that all goes in. What happens with this summer, we don’t really know. There’s an outside chance there will be no cricket at all, I guess. We’ll have to cut our costs accordingly. We’re talking about it already. We’re gonna get this book out of the way, all the PR and so, and then really sit down and nail some ideas. We’ve got a few swilling around – it actually gives us a chance to be inventive. But it’s going to be tricky.
I remember thinking this year’s Wisden was going to be a monster because of the huge amount of stories we had to tell. But next year is going to be the complete opposite. A monster in a different way. It may go down as a collector’s item. Some of the wartime Wisdens are quite thin but they’re hard to get now. And they fetch big fees at auction. I’m not saying we’ll unprint next year’s Wisden but I think it will be the “coronavirus Wisden” and people will still want to buy it.
YR: What is the precedent for summers with little to no cricket? So the wartime Wisdens…
LB: There was still some cricket in them. So look at some of the Second World War Wisdens – there were games played by the British Empire XI and the London Counties XI, Oxford and Cambridge and the public schools. So there are scorecards in those Wisdens, they’re just much thinner. The Second World War Wisdens come in at about 400 pages, roughly. The First World War ones are even thinner, closer to 250, 300.
If you read the preface to the 1941 Wisden, the editor Haddon Whitaker explains that the reason that year’s Wisden came out in August of that year was because the publishing premises in Mortlake in south-west London had been bombed the previous December, so they’d actually physically lost copy that could never be retrieved in time. There’s just four pages of ads where the Schools section should have been because that stuff just went up in flames. We’re not facing that kind of existential threat in the same way, but there will be a Wisden and we will reflect whatever’s taken place.
The Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast is available on Spotify and the Podcast app.