Club Cricket Conference

Sunday, 27th May 2018

MCC photo panel should reflect on selfie women's decision

By Charles Randall

13 April 2018


The winner of the  Wisden MCC cricket photograph of the year 2017 has been announced, and one has to wonder why the judges selected such a routine picture.

The England women celebrations are captured after winning the World Cup final against India at Lord's, with Katherine Brunt talking a selfie among her team-mates.  This apparently was deemed the highest quality offering among the record 650 entries.

The previous year's winner was a truly fascinating shot of a park cricket game among trees in India, bathed in a golden hue. One could stare and admire the picture for minutes on end, wondering how the photographer achieved such beauty.

Imagination, skill and luck  are normally required for prize-winning pictures. None of that is in evidence for the 2017 winner because celebrations in sport are entirely predictable as an easy way of capturing 'emotion'. There are three such celebration pictures in the short-list of 11, and a lot less to admire in the competition's eighth year.

The judges described Stu Forster's winning picture as "iconic". England winning the World Cup at Lord's could be described as fairly iconic, because this was the second time,  but the picture itself could reflect more or less any sport. Or did the judges mean that taking a selfie at Lord's was iconic? The competiton is supposed to be about "cricket photograph" of the year with, one might hope, a bat or ball in sight.

Forster, a top class Getty Images photographer, won £2,000 for his successful bread-and-butter picture, and he won up another £1,000 for one of the two runners-up entries. This was a shot of the New Zealand bowler Hannah Rowe at Taunton in a her follow-through with hair completely covering her face and head - a witty contribution from the World Cup.

In the short-list there was an  especially arresting picture of two batsmen - Theunis de Bruyn and Hashim Amla  - in a weird tangle. Having confused themselves with calling, they ended up with arms and bats  interwoven to such an extent it is difficult to see how that came about. Well done, Michael Bradley, of Getty Images, for  this run-out oddity from South Africa's Test against New Zealand at Hamilton.

Another intriguing picture was a drone shot by Archie Brooksbank of an MCC match in the evening light at Alderney, high up on the cliffs with bay and yachts in the background. This was unusual, dramatic and uplifting - but presumably not "iconic" enough to win. Another intriguing picture was taken in Srinigar during a curfew, showing a small boy wielding his bat in gentle contrast to the barbed wire and armed police in the background.

The second runner-up picture was taken by the London-based photographer David Rowe of  Sam Curran watching two stumps cartwheel in Surrey’s NatWest T20 Blast match against Essex Eagles at The Kia Oval.

Lawrence Booth, Wisden editor, said the standard of entries had been higher than ever. "It’s always intriguing to see the imaginative ways in which cricket photographers manage to convey the sport, and the selection for 2017 was a delight," he said. One has to feel sorry for the many imaginitive photographers who failed to reach the short-list.

Booth commented: "In the year the World Cup took the women’s game to another level, it was lovely to see a big increase in the number of images featuring women and girls – from that memorable day at Lord's to the streets of the subcontinent. We’re grateful to MCC and Lord’s for their continued support."

This spring's Almanack front cover features a woman player for the first time, Anya Shrubsole. Three of the five Wisden players of the year are women, and now one sees England women players feature in a Wisden 'photograph of the year' of modest merit. So maybe there is an agenda here.

Already, in the first few months of 2018, one can almost predict next year's MCC-Wisden cricket photograph of the year competition under the new icon-and-emotion guidelines. It is a fair bet the short-list will include  yet more celebrations and probably some crying Australians after the sandpaper tampering scandal.

The 2017 competition was judged by a panel of the former chief sports photographer of  the Sunday Times, Chris Smith,  cricket photographers Patrick Eagar and Adrian Murrell, former art director of The Cricketer magazine Nigel Davies, music photographer Kevin Cummins and broadcaster Alison Mitchell.

The top three entries feature in the 2018 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. All short-listed images will be displayed inside and outside the MCC Museum at Lord’s.