Al­manack still ex­cites

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Even in the era of Cricinfo and other on­line of­fer­ings, I still get a thrill when my New Zealand Cricket Al­manack ar­rives.

This year’s 512-page whop­per, edited as it has been since 1982 by Ian Smith and Fran­cis Payne, is a cracker, well worth its $55 price tag.

I con­fess a sen­ti­men­tal at­tach­ment to the al­manack.

The 1955 edition, fea­tur­ing fast bowlers Bob Blair and Frank Tyson on the cover, was the first sports book I read. I found it among my fa­ther’s dusty col­lec­tion in an old suit­case, and be­came fas­ci­nated by the sta­tis­tics and names from the past.

For years I would ven­ture into Whitcombe and Tombs as spring ar­rived and ask whether the new al­manack was in yet.

The al­manack turns 65 this year. The orig­i­nal ed­i­tors, Arthur Car­man and Noel MacDon­ald, would be proud of how it has ma­tured. Their first is­sue, in 1948, con­tained just 104 pages and sold for 5 shillings ($17.50 to­day).

Bert Sut­cliffe and Tom Burtt, two left-handed greats, fea­tured on that first cover, and the is­sue cov­ered the six Plun­ket Shield matches, the in­ter-is­land fix­ture, and the tour by Fiji.

The ed­i­tors con­fined them­selves to fac­tual com­ments, though they noted that Sut­cliffe had had a ‘‘ siz­zling’’ ca­reer.

The 1948 edition sold out quickly and now fetches a healthy price in sec­ond-hand book­shops. The 1949 al­manack mush­roomed to 186 pages and cost 6 shillings 6 pence. The cover fea­tured Wal­ter Hadlee’s fa­mous New Zealand team tak­ing the field in Eng- land. The al­manack did jus­tice to that team’s su­perb record and to the feats of Burtt, Sut­cliffe, Martin Donnelly, Merv Wal­lace, Jack Cowie, Hadlee, John Reid and com­pany.

It also be­gan to show its quirky na­ture. Its play­ers of the sea­son were open­ing bats­man Don Tay­lor and pace bowler Arthur Cress­well, nei­ther of whom made the tour of Eng­land. It was a po­lite way of dis­agree­ing with the team se­lec­tion.

The ed­i­tors would print odd para­graphs as fillers. These days the al­manack runs a large Happenings sec­tion, con­tain­ing the same sort of quirky ma­te­rial.

Women’s cricket re­ceived its first men­tion when the ed­i­tors wished the New Zealand women well for their 1954 tour of Eng­land. This year 70 pages are de­voted to women’s cricket.

Car­man, who be­came sole ed­i­tor in 1958, al­ways named a bats­man and bowler of the year, but didn’t re­peat any player.

That meant lesser lights such as Ray Emery, Ray Dowker, Sam Guillen, Jack Ever­est, Ken Hough and Cliff Dick­e­son had their mo­ment in the spot­light.

Smith and Payne have done won­der­fully since tak­ing over. Even Car­man would have strug­gled to match their three-page sta­tis­ti­cal trib­ute to Richard Hadlee in 1990.

The 2012 al­manack’s play­ers of the year are Martin Gup­till and Kane Wil­liamson.

Happenings is again oddly com­pelling.

Did you know Otago’s Bruce Milburn (1968-1969) was the last gen­uine test wick­et­keeper/No 11 bats­man from any coun­try? Or that there have been 65 first- class venues in New Zealand? Or that wick­et­keeper Gareth Hop­kins has now made more than 100 dis­missals for each of Otago, Can­ter­bury and Auck­land?

Or that of non-county cricket play­ers, Michael Par­lane made the most first-class runs (7354) and cen­turies (15) of any­one who never rep­re­sented New Zealand? Let’s see you find all that on Cricinfo!

Hon­oured: Martin Gup­till, pic­tured, and Kane Wil­liamson were New Zealand Cricket Al­manack Play­ers of the Year, 2012.

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