I’ve not been hugely impressed by Scyld Berry’s tenure* as editor of Wisden and his decision to name just four rather than the customary five Cricketers of the Year this season merely confirms that. It’s either a cop-out or a dishonourable play for extra publicity. Neither explanation reflects well upon the venerable Almanack.
For the record the four players chosen are Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Tamim Iqbal and Chris Read. Morgan, in my view, scarcely deserves his place but none of the players chosen deserve to have their honour eclipsed by the controversy over Mohammad Amir’s exclusion. Berry has done the four cricketers he did deign to name a grave disservice.
A stronger editor would have named Amir anyway or, had said editor concluded that the spot-fixing scandal compromised Amir’s candidacy, named a fifth cricketer in his place. To do neither of these things reflects a paucity of courage, imagination or propriety. According to Berry:
"If the player in question were exonerated, then it would be possible to reconsider the position," Berry said. "That’s why I didn’t pick anyone else instead. But as things stand, we don’t feel we can choose him. It’s all very sad."
Well maybe. But how is a future editor supposed to reconsider the 2011 list? Berry has wimped out of making a decision and since editing Wisden is the closest thing we have to being a souped-up Archbishop of Canterbury with jurisdiction over something that actually matters wimping out, however tempting it may be, is not good enough.
The Editor of Wisden may be wrong – that is his prerogative – but he must be strong and must defend the game against all who threaten her. Much of the time that means defending cricket against those who run cricket but at other times it just means not being a wimp.
Berry had a tough task succeeding Matthew Engel; Lawrence Booth takes up the mantle next year and will surely be an improvement upon his pusillanimous predecessor.
*Berry’s preference for nearly all the writing to be done by chaps who had played test cricket is only part of my gripe. The ex-player perspective is often splendid and sometimes vital but it is not the only perspective and Wisden should remember that. Nasser Hussein is dull enough on TV without us having to have him be even more dull in print too.