The Wisden Writing Competition 2024

Another year, another entry, another fail. I’ve reached double figures! It’s the tenth time I’ve failed to win the Wisden Writing Competition. Only three others have failed more often. Not even a lucky loser. Clearly I am failing to hit a soft spot in the anonymous judging panel. Perhaps indicating the Editor might use AI for his Notes was a little over the top. Will I try again for the 2025 edition? Why not?

First a word of congratulations to the 2024 winner, Sohan Maheshwar. In keeping with tradition (after 12 editions the competition surely can have traditions; after 20 it acquires heritage status) it was his debut entry. That´s 10 out of 12 first time winners. It´s also the third winner with a touching father/son memory but the piece does break two new grounds. The first by a winner based in EU27 (Amsterdam) and the first to mention women´s cricket (the 2017 World Cup final at Lord´s).

The game itself is in turmoil. Long standing rhythms are being upended especially in England. The sudden rise (by cricketing standards) of franchised T20 tournaments around the world, many backed by billionaire businesses from India, are eating into the very fabric of the warm beer and village greens of nostalgic memory. The upcoming privatization of the new “Hundred” competition in England is causing explosions of angst amongst many county members (well at least those on social media if not attending actual meetings) to match those potential investors rubbing their hands with glee. Even MCC, that bastion of privilege and conformity is seriously thinking of having a franchised team. As an aside its Annual Report is far more informative than county reports; its long list of obituaries of members illustrates just how privileged the club is.

The 161st edition of Wisden reflects many of these changes. This year the focus is on the politicisation of Indian cricket, “bazball”, and the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket. A fascinating survey of Jewish cricketers around the world stops short of discussing why none has appeared for England men´s team or if any are currently in county cricket.

The Writing Competition tends to avoid this turmoil. Last year’s winner, a polemic against Melbourne Cricket Ground, recognised change but hopes that this was the start of a trend are on hold. It remains a haven of normality, of cricket lovers remembering those cherished moments cricket brings them. Will I enter for the 2025 edition? I suppose a piece less than fondly recalling a day spent under an umbrella, dodging showers, paying for over-priced and under-tasted burgers and chips and seeing ten overs in the day´s play might be in order. Or perhaps the most blatant breaches of the “spirit of cricket” seen in a local village cricket match. Or jumping between tabs on YouTube watching county and Caribbean cricket streams. As a wild card, perhaps a full throated shout out for the T20 format and welcoming the gradual demise of interminable low attendance red ball county cricket (but KP has already bagged that one).

Returning to the 2024 competition, a quick review, my fifth. Only 81 entrants this time around, the lowest of the 12 editions. A long way down from the 2021 peak of 193. A wide global distribution it seems but still a low entry from women (less than 10 I guess).

Now onwards to the 2025 entry.