So, the Wisden Cricketer magazine is back to being just The Cricketer. A small change, some may say, but as a long-term subscriber, I thought I'd give my two-penneth on the change.
Firstly, a bit of history. The Cricketer magazine was launched in 1921 by Sir Pelham Warner, and had a distinguished array of editors, including Warner, E. W. Swanton and Christopher Martin-Jenkins. Wisden Cricket Monthly launched in 1979 in competition to The Cricketer, with David Frith as editor. Tim de Lisle took over in 1996, and upon his departure to the magazine's online venture, Steven Fay became editor. In 2003, both magazines merged to become The Wisden Cricketer. However, those at The Cricketer claimed that this was little more than a WCM takeover. Fay retired at the same time as the final issue of WCM (which happened to coincide with his 65th birthday), and his deputy John Stern took up the editorship. The Cricketer's long match reports and thoughtful essays were replaced by player interviews and comic asides. The layout of the magazine resembled WCM far more than The Cricketer, and the final Cricketer issue bemoaned the fact that this high-brow and beloved magazine was being absorbed into the mainstream. Older readers, including my grandfather, shunned the new release (where was the poetry corner and the puzzles) and vowed not to buy another issue.
I mention my grandfather because I inherited his subscription, and I rather liked the new magazine. It was fun, yes, but it was also interesting and informative. It kept me in touch with the game (despite the live action moving to Sky Sports in 2006) and has kept me interested in the England team. There has also been very good coverage of the county game and the wider issues in the game. It employs excellent writers and is edited to a very high standard.
But in 2007, the magazine was purchased by BSkyB. Whilst the company cannot be blamed for cricket disappearing from terrestrial television, I do feel that the money they inject into the game isn't always healthy and I was worried that TWC would become a mouthpiece for the ECB and Sky's coverage of the game. To the editing team's credit, that did not happen. But Sky's coverage was frequently advertised by the likes of David Lloyd in the magazine, and there were also features on Cricket AM and Sky's Test Match coverage. There was also the fact that I did not especially like the fact that my subscription was lining the pockets of BSkyB executives, whose broadcasting of cricket behind a pay-wall I disliked.
So, I was very pleased by the news this December, when a consortium of cricket commentators and administrators (but, above all else, fans) including Jonathan Agnew, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Simon Hughes and Lord Marland purchased the magazine. And I was most interested to see what they did with it. The first issue since the takeover contained some small changes (such as columns from Aggers and Simon Hughes), but it was the second issue where things started to get interesting. There was a major redesign, which actually reminded me of WCM's look around the time of its closure, and Mark Nicholas began to write a regular column. The magazine's website (which I found excellent) was merged with Test Match Extra to make thecricketer.com. This was the first hint that the name of the magazine was to change. As for the website itself, I don't feel that it is quite as strong as TWC's. Its design is not as neat, its content isn't as well organised, the magazine archive has been all but deleted and there is no longer a full RSS feed. Having said all that, there is far more content.
Today marked the change of the magazine's name, and I must confess that I haven't yet seen the debut issue (my subscription is delivered to my home, rather than work, address). But, I am very pleased to see commentators, analysts and administrators that I like (the likes of Agnew, Hughes, Nicholas, CMJ and Victor Marks) writing for the magazine, and the traditionalist in me is very pleased to see the Cricketer name return once more. I have found it very interesting that the shift in columnists, the redesign and the name change have all been staggered, but I suppose that is to appease those who are against the change.
I hope that the magazine is successful in the future, and I look forward to reading many more issues!