What is it about Wisden? It is a cricketing institution certainly, but, rather like the Marylebone Cricket Club, one striving desperately to make itself relevant to the modern game.
Its editor's notes, once viewed with gravitas, are in reality just another voice. Why, as the blurb for this year's Almanack seems to imply, should the opinions of the new editor, Scyld Berry, the formidable cricket correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, be considered to carry more weight than they might in his newspaper simply because they are in Wisden? And does anyone really wait with bated breath to see which are the five cricketers of the year, especially as their identity has been on websites for some time?
Rather, Wisden's real strength lies in the chronicling of the world game and especially in the articles - always imaginatively commissioned, well written and meticulously edited - and the oddments at the end of the book. And yet, in a cricket world increasingly in ferment, this brick of a book still represents something reassuringly steadfast, its spring arrival always a portent of things to come as much as a document of those past, even the primrose cover seeming to offer subliminal hope, forlorn more often than not, of a summer of unrelenting sun.
Forget the editor's notes for a moment. This 145th edition carries some excellent reading, starting with appraisals of the careers of the trio of geniuses who retired during 2007. Mike Atherton writes perceptively on Brian Lara, the Australian journalist Robert Craddock captures the simplicity that Glenn McGrath brought to the art of bowling - "bowl 99 deliveries out of 100 to hit the top of off stump and you will achieve all you want in cricket" - and Ian Healy, Adam Gilchrist's predecessor behind the stumps for Australia, uses that vast experience to eulogise Gilchrist as one of the game's greatest entertainers.
The death of Bob Woolmer and the circus that surrounded it are analysed at length by the Daily Mail's diligent Paul Newman, and Tanya Aldred of this parish views the county season through the eyes of four cricketers. Read Patrick Collins' deconstruction of Duncan Fletcher's autobiography but, in case anyone has forgotten the debt owed to the former coach, then read Andrew Strauss reminding us of just how good he is.
To find sufficient material for his soapbox, Berry has had to trawl the depths even of his fertile mind. The idea that "physical violence is threatening to take over the traditional non-contact sport of cricket" is surely fanciful, based on limited evidence. Berry, though, writes sensibly on the rise of Twenty20; on the lack of cricketing nous in and the need to streamline administration; on the vast distance England have to go in the next year to achieve their mission statement; and on William Buckland's insightful analysis of the counterproductive amount of cricket played by the national team to support county cricket. Oh yes, the cricketers of the year are Ian Bell, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ottis Gibson, Ryan Sidebottom and Zaheer Khan.