Well Played!: Ten delectable verbal drives from Wisden 2015

Here are ten quotes - or verbal drives, to use cricketing lingo - from Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2015.

Written by Nimish Dubey | Published:June 19, 2015 11:10 am
Kumar Sangakkara, Cricket, Cricket books, Wisden Almanack, 2015 Wisden Almanack, Wisden Almanack 2015, sangakkara, cricket news, cricket Kumar Sangakkara is ranked second in both Tests and ODIs. (Source: Reuters)

It might be best known as the “Cricketer’s Bible” and considered to be the final word in cricket statistics, laws and scoreboards, but the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack also features some of the best cricket writing you are likely to see.

It is one of the rare places where you will witness writers step away from routine reporting and analysis and lapse (if it can be called that) into something close to poetry in prose. And the 2015 edition of the Almanack is no different in this regard. Yes, there is the surfeit of statistics, and the latest edition of the rules of the Gentleman’s Game, but also present are some glorious verbal flourishes, the likes of which one is unlikely (pun intended) to read in routine cricket coverage.

Here are our ten favourite quotes – or verbal drives, to use cricketing lingo – from Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2015:

“The sixes will keep coming, the crowds will keep roaring, and anyone querying the endless adrenaline rush will be told to get a life. Yet cricket’s two most basic skills are evolving at different rates: Homo Sapiens are clubbing the life out of Neanderthals. While the ball remains a humble lump of cork and leather, bat technology gets more sophisticated, batsmen are bolder and stronger; the free-hit rule punishes the bowlers twice for overstepping; and in one-day cricket, the new fielding restrictions have turned captaincy into a guessing game. Which may be the point.”

Lawrence Booth, on the dominance of bat over ball in the modern game, Page 23

“In the misty-eyed Australian cricketing imagination, and a century after his untimely death, Victor Trumper is still the nonpareil, the paladin of batsmen, of batsmen, of young Australian manhood. Tall, blond, willowy, lissom, with chiselled features; determined, audacious, effortlessly talented, yet modest to a fault.”

Carl Bridge, remembers Australian cricket legend Victor Trumper, a man some claim was idolised more than even the great Sir Don Bradman, Page 28

“Opening the batting, because of its exact timing, is as much about controlling your emotions as about crisp, decisive footwork. You have the honour of marking the game’s first guard – everyone from then on will take your cue. In your state of heightened awareness it’s also a reconnaissance. As soon as your boot sprig touches the clay under the grass, you get more information than any pitch inspection could ever provide. A tough scrape through a dry surface is a reassuring feeling. A soft sensation, like a knife through butter, revealing a dark black soil, and you can expect a tougher morning.”

Ed Cowan, Australian opening batsman on the art of opening the innings in a match, Page 35

“At his best, Kevin Pietersen was the Picasso of batting: bold, outrageous, avant-garde…His innings were a mixture of the brazen and bizarre. Some were almost incomprehensible, defying logic and geometry, born of experimentation, suffused with magic…He was not prepared to wait for the ball to arrive: he went in search of it, taking it early, on the up, hitting it through or over the fielders.”

Simon Hughes, on the maverick who divided English cricket in 2014-15 (and still is, to an extent), Pages 41-42

“Jeetan Patel, like Graeme Swann, decided that there was little to be gained from looking flash. His wardrobe has never included the doosra, the modern spinner’s most fashionable accessory, until questions arose about its legality. Instead. Patel’s style has been retro-chic, dressing up his deliveries in different speeds, trajectories and angles.”

Richard Gibson, profiling Jeetan Patel, one of Wisden’s Cricketer’s of the Year, Page 73

“His (Kumar Sangakkara’s) cover drive – often down on one knee – is so harmonious that it could help facilitate world peace.”

Rob Smyth, on the pain alleviating powers of a cover drive by Wisden’s Leading Cricketer of the World, Page 95

“When Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim failed to resume his post behind the stumps on the second morning of the Second Test, the official explanation was a fractured finger on his left hand. If he had said that the image of Kumar Sangakkara’s posterior had burned so deeply into his subconscious that it was haunting his dreams, few would have blamed him: for the second time in 12 months, a series between these nations was shaped by a torrent of Sangakkara runs.”

Andrew Fernando, gets to the bottom of the impact one player had on the Bangaldesh-Sri Lanka series, Page 865

“Back in the 1920s, Agatha Christie, whose mystery novels have sold millions of copies in India, wrote The Big Four. Its characters were little more than caricatures. But it was hard not to think back to them, as India, Australia and England, cricket’s Big Three, baked a new ICC pie for themselves. No prizes for guessing who got the biggest slices.”

Dileep Premchandran, on the wonderfully unbiased ways of cricket’s super powers, Page 903

“If the IPL were a teenager, it would be constantly kept behind after school, so often has it refused to conform to even the loosest standards of acceptable behaviour.”

Anand Vasu, on the tournament that some insist is a festival of India, Page 917

“It was precisely the kind of year Pakistan keep having: some electric cricket, some comedy cricket, some tragedy, some farce, some bright new talent, some grand old hands. In other words, everything to look at here, don’t move along.”

Osman Samiuddin, on the theatre that is Pakistan cricket, Page 990

(The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack has been published by Bloomsbury and is available for Rs 1499 – and spans over a thousand pages of cricket!)

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