Alex Massie

How can all be lost? Wisden has arrived.

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One of the great annual treats is upon us: yes, the 2008 edition of Wisden arrived this morning. As always, the obituaries provide some of the best reading. To wit, Mike Brearley's father, Horace who died last August aged 94. He was:

A batsman who played once for Yorkshire before the war, and twice for Middlesex afterwards...Mike himself tells the story of his father's only game for Yorkshire, which was against Middlesex: "He batted an No. 5, and faced a side that contained three leg-spinners. Horace had never, or almost never, been confronted by a googly bowler, and here were three all at once. But he was a typical Yorkshireman, and his comment about the occasion was to complain that Len Hutton kept pinching the bowling. One might have though that this would have suited him fine."

Sometimes the obits are masterpieces of concision, leaving one to wonder what dreams and hopes died on the field of play and what the consequences of such disappointment must have been. As, for instance, may have been the case with B.B Bhaskaran,who died on October 9, 2007, aged 78*. He:

Played five first-class matches for Kerala in the early 1960s. A middle-order batsman, he was spectacularly unsuccessful, bagging a pair in his first match, against Madras, and only one of his eight innings produced more than two runs. He did manage one wicket.

It's the consoling "he did manage" that makes it wonderful, of course.

Ian Wooldridge's obituary contains this lovely tale:

At the Sydney Test in 1994-95, anxious to persuade Shane Warne to do an interview, he went out and bought the biggest trophy he could find, and had it engraved as the entirely spurious "Daily Mail Award for Excellence in Sport". He presented it to a proud Warne, who then happily talked for ages.

All in all, I'm pleased to report that the venerable Almanack seems, from an initial study, to live up to its usual high standards. For a quiet moment or two, then, all is well with the world.

*Typo corrected: if he'd been 7 he'd have been remarkable.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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