The world’s top cricketers will have a lot of work to do in 2008. The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2008 lists 56 Tests and 148 one-day internationals (though some matches are not yet confirmed). That would mean 428 days of international cricket in the 366 days of the coming leap year. Add to that Twenty20 duels, and you have a calendar that is packed to the point of cruelty—for both the performers and the audience.
The Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2008: Edited by Steven Lynch, Penguin, 272 pages, Rs350.
It is safe to bet that few will bother to watch all the matches, or even most of them. Remember: The world’s sporting attention will be turned to Beijing and the 2008 Olympics there. The sheer surfeit of cricket ensures that nobody other than the obsessive fan can figure out who the man at the crease is, what his strong points are and what his recent record is. I confess I have been foxed in recent times.
The 200 profiles that are the core of this guide may thus be helpful, though every year brings with it new stars and unexpected comebacks. The heroes of 2008 may well be unknown names today. But, of course, it is unfair to expect the compilers of this guide to predict the unpredictable. One final point: It is usually said, perhaps with good reason, that we live in a new golden age of batting. Records keep tumbling. A batting average of 40 is considered, well, average. Other than those who whack sixes at will, helped by heavy bats and dead wickets, the crowd seems to reserve its enthusiasm for fast bowlers. 2008 may be no different.
So it is odd that many of the truly great players of our age are spinners. This guide has Monty Panesar on its front cover and Muttiah Muralitharan on the back cover. How unusual. How appropriate.
What words mean
Anu Garg is a name familiar with word lovers the world over. His website, wordsmith.org, which the Seattle-based computer engineer started in 1994 and which became a popular reference point for lovers of the English language, now has more than five lakh subscribers. Each subscriber receives a new word in their email every day. In his new book, The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two, his second, Garg picks about 300 words and explores the histories behind them.
The Dord, the Diglot, and the Avocado or two: By Anu Garg, Penguin/Plume, 180 pages, Rs225.
Some of these facts are so unusual and their stories have such unexpected logic that you’re likely to remember them forever. Why is the part of the eye through which light enters called a pupil? Writes Garg: “Have you seen your reflection in someone’s eyes? How tiny it appears!” So, it’s “pupil” from “pupa” or “pupus”, meaning tiny. The 17 chapters of the book are divided into themes—for example, “People Who Became Words” (Xanthippe, Furphy); “Tasty Words” (Julienne, Deipnosophist); “Fictional Characters Who Came Alive” (Abigail, Cringeworthy); “How do you Measure the Warmth of Clothes” (Hemidemisemiquaver, Therblig).
Even the casual “linguaphile” (a word that Garg coined in 1994 to describe people who love words and languages which, six years later, was incorporated into the American Heritage Dictionary) would love to browse through this small book on a lazy Sunday.
The column, Cult Fiction, by R. Sukumar, will return in the Lounge issue of 19 January.