The zoo that is Indian Railways

In the beginning there were Mail trains, Express trains and Passenger trains besides goods trains. So you also had Mixed trains, slow trains which had passenger coaches as well as goods wagons. Some of these may still exist on minor branch lines.

After Independence new varieties came along, such as the Janatha Expresses (only 3rd class) and Deluxe Expresses (with a small number of AC chair and AC I coaches).

In 1969 the first Rajdhani Express ran. A few years later we had the Jayanthi Janatha Express. These ran on a number of routes, though the only one which lasted long enough with this name was the first one between Nizamuddin and Mangalore, with a few coaches to Cochin. It still survives with a completely different route and name (the Mangala Express via the Konkan route to Ernakulam via Mangaluru Jn). Other short-lived phenomena included the DC (Diesel Car) Express which ran on metre gauge between Kanpur and Lucknow, and a few other routes on the NER.

In the late 70s came the “classless” trains such as the Gitanjali Express, basically all 2nd class sleeper with cushioned berths. In the mean time 3rd class had vanished and had become 2nd class just by using a bit of red paint to change III to II.

Still later, various Railway Ministers kept introducing various new ideas for express trains. No new Mail trains were introduced since the 70s. The last one appears to have been the Tinsukia Mail in c.1974, which became the Brahmaputra Mail. Some Mails were transformed into Expresses, such as the Bombay/Poona Mail to the Mahalaxmi Express (if I remember right). And the one-time 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail first became the Haridwar Mail and then the Yoga Express (Don’t ask why. Swami Ramdev might know).

The Shatabdis, Jan Shatabdis, Durontos, Garib Raths, Double Decker, Jan Sadharan and Sampark Kranti Expresses should be familiar enough now. I must have missed out a few species. Right now the new Railway Minister has unleashed several new beasts, for which you can refer to this news item:

http://profit.ndtv.com/news/budget/article-rail-budget-2016-humsafar-to-uday-four-new-categories-of-trains-to-be-introduced-1281149

and this older reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Express_trains_in_India

The new timetable from October 1, 2016 will include these:

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/railways/tejas-hamsafar-express-services-in-railways-new-timetable/articleshow/54532278.cms

Deendayalu appears to be a type of coach rather than a train.

So now you have it. India does have the most variety of trains of any railway system in the world.

Just waiting for Uday Expresses to run to these places:

As you would guess, the “original” Udaipur is the one on the right while the one on the left is in Tripura (where the local language is Bengali).

The original Udaipur station existed until 1964 when the new route from Udaipur to Himatnagar was built. It now goes by this name:

rana-pratap-nagar

Arise, Sir Ravindra!

When we write about the exploits of Sir Ravindra Jadeja, we would later have to describe the exploits of Baron Ravichandran Ashwin, Lord Cheteshwar Pujara, the Honourable Virat Kohli and Prince Ajinkya Rahane (not to forget the evil Duke Rohit Sharma).

Today, however, we take up the all-round feat of scoring a fifty-plus and a five-plus in the same Test. This is not such a big deal, as it has been achieved on 197 occasions in all Tests, and several players including most of the famous all-rounders have done it more than once.

For the moment, we look at the 22 occasions where this was achieved by India in Tests:

jadeja1

Virtually every Indian all-rounder of note is there, including Kapil (4 times), Ashwin (3) and Bhuvaneswar Kumar (2). Also note the gallant efforts by Vinoo Mankad (1952) and Umrigar (1962) which did not prevent defeat. Note who is the most recent entrant.

However, only 7 of these efforts resulted in an Indian victory:

jadeja2

and you can see who the latest entrant was.

Now let us see the list of these performances in India-New Zealand Tests:

jadeja3

Only 5 occasions, 3 by NZ and 2 by India. And how many of these resulted in victory?

jadeja4

Only 2 such occasions, one featuring the nearly forgotten John Bracewell (who nevertheless brought New Zealand its second and last Test win in India). And Sir Jadeja, who got the man of the match award to go along with his knighthood.

 

Toby rises again

You would have heard of the Toby jug, one of the normal pieces of tourist junk one picks up in Britain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toby_Jug

toby-jug

There is even a museum devoted to the Toby jug in Evanston, Illinois which is better known for the Kellogg B-school.

But you would not have heard of anyone called Toby (or even Tobias) in the past century or so, apart from characters in “West Wing” and “Thomas and Friends”

Until today. Middlesex won the County championship at the last gasp of the 2016 season. (Some countries such as India and Australia have a final match to decide the domestic champions. In England’s county championship, the winner is determined by points in a league system)  Note the scorecard of Yorkshire’s second innings:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/946945.html

Toby Ronald-Jones (a nice old 19th-century English name) of Middlesex took 10 wickets in the match, including 6 in the second innings with a hat-trick to seal victory and the Championship title for his county.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/370535.html

He is so far on the fringes of England’s Test squad, but we may hear more of him in the future.

 

Famous Diesels

The original inventor Rudolf Diesel 

The French police dog Diesel who was martyred in the terror attacks in France in 2015:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_(dog) . She deserves to have her picture here:

diesel-dog

 

The other famous Mr Diesel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vin_Diesel

The Italian clothing brand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_(brand) 

which often features in jokes about Rahul Gandhi and the prices of petrol and diesel.

And finally the icon of Indian Railways:

 

 

Yuvraj Singh’s ups and downs

Most sportsmen see ups and downs in quick succession. Yuvraj Singh is no exception. In this case the low was quickly followed by a high, and the low was quickly forgotten. We take up the story in 2007, meeting his adversaries along the way.

We begin on September 5, 2007 when India faced England in the 6th of 7 ODIs (yawn!) Going into this match, England led 3-2 with 2 to go.

England batted steadily and reached 286/6 at the end of 49 overs. For some reason captain Dravid chose to have Yuvraj bowl the last over. He had taken 0-29 off 4 overs prior to this. The 48th over had been bowled by Tendulkar for 12 runs.

Dimitri Mascarenhas, whose name is largely forgotten now, faced the first ball. He had one of the weirdest-sounding life histories of any international cricketer. He was born in England to Sri Lankan parents, spent most of his life in Australia but did end up playing for England in ODIs and T20Is and was usually regarded as an useful bits-and-pieces player. Then he had a Russian-sounding first name (don’t ask why) and a Portuguese-sounding surname (though in Sri Lanka and India, a Portuguese-sounding surname does not necessarily mean European ancestry). Finally, he was born in the same obscure suburb of London as this writer, though a generation later.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/engvind/content/player/16932.html

Commentary for the 50th over:

yuvraj-dimitri

The final scorecard : http://www.espncricinfo.com/engvind/engine/match/258476.html

And the current list of most expensive ODI overs:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/278847.html

As you can see, the Sachin and Saurav show got going, Yuvraj scored 18 and was one of Dimitri’s two wickets, and India finally won to tie the series 3-3. Ultimately they lost 4-3.

Later that month, India was in South Africa playing the first World Championship. Nothing much was expected from this team as they were the least experienced, having played precisely one T20I till them.They had won that match against SA less than a year earlier. And the IPL was not even a gleam in somebody’s eye.

Along the way, they ran into England again at Durban on September 19, exactly 2 weeks after the match mentioned earlier. This was a second stage match, with England already eliminated and India still in the running but without great expectations. Both Yuvraj and Dimitri were playing. The latter bowled one over for 15 runs. We now take up the start of Yuvraj’s innings:

yuvraj-1

Now for the 19th over by Stuart Broad which passed into history:

yuvraj-2

And the wrap-up:

yuvraj-3

As usually happens with some of the Cricinfo commentators, once they hit on an idea for PJs, they keep exploiting it throughout the match. This match’s emphasis on pirates and seafarers may have been inspired by Dimitri’s appearance!

T20I debutant Rohit Sharma did not get to bat, while Joginder Sharma (who remembers him now?) also debuted.

The final scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/twenty20wc/engine/match/287873.html

India won by 18 runs, so we can see how critical Yuvraj’s innings was. Dimitri was there at the close, but only faced one ball.

Also see the records: Most runs off an over, where Yuvraj’s record still stands:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284226.html

He also still holds the record for the fastest T20I ODI:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/284094.html

The rest is history, where Misbah, Joginder and Sreesanth were there at the climax.

Many things were still in store for Yuvraj: man of the tournament in WC 2011, cancer and prolonged treatment and a brave but not too successful comeback. But September 2007 had more than enough ups and downs for him.

Meanwhile, Dimitri faded away after 2009 and Broad continues to open the bowling for England.

An afterthought: You would have heard of Malcolm Nash who conceded six sixes in an over in a FC match with Gary Sobers batting against him. Some years later he scored a century in another FC match. An Indian newspaper had this small headline on the sports page: “A bowler, once humiliated, shows how to bat”.

 

 

 

Long-lived cricketers

A small landmark went unnoticed earlier this month. Lindsay Tuckett, who played 9 Tests for South Africa in 1947-49, passed away at the age of 97. He was the last surviving Test player who had played first-class cricket before World War 2. He started playing FC matches in 1934-35

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/47559.html

Norman Gordon, also from South Africa, played 5 Tests in 1938-39, died in 2014 and was the last surviving Test player from before the War. He is also the only Test player (and one of a handful of first-class players) to have lived for more than a century.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/southafrica/content/player/45239.html

Fortunately Cricinfo keeps track of these things. The link given below is for the longest-lived Test players (and there is also one for ODI players). This is a dynamic link which is apparently updated daily. Anyway I am also giving a snapshot of part of the page as it was on 17/09/2016.

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283740.html

oldest-test-players-sep-2016

As of today, Lindsay Tuckett is 4th on the list of longest-lived Test players. Andy Ganteaume, who died earlier in 2016 at 95+, is a little further down. And MJ Gopalan at 94+ is the longest lived for India.

The above list is of people who are no longer alive. It is also of interest to see the details of those who are still living. Here is Cricinfo’s list as of today:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/records/283742.html

oldest-living-test-players

This snapshot is listed as being correct as on 15/09/2016. The earliest Test debuts were that of Weekes and Harvey almost simultaneously in January 1948. So there is no one living who had played Tests in 1947 and earlier.

I have included everyone who have crossed their 86th birthday. We see that JC Watkins, who played 15 Tests for  South Africa in 1949-57, is the oldest living player at 93+. Somewhat further down is India’s oldest living player DK Gaekwad (father of Anshuman) at 87+. And Gary Sobers, who crossed 80 some time ago, is also on the list (though not in the above snapshot).

RH “Deepak” Shodhan, who died earlier in 2016, was older than Gaekwad by a few days and was India’s oldest living player for some time. See this interview which was conducted shortly before he passed away. And here is another interview with DK Gaekwad.

Anyway, I checked the details of the top few names and verified that none of them had played first-class cricket before the War. We do have Weekes and Imtiaz Ali who made their first-class debuts in 1944-45, during the war. Everyone else started in 1946 or later.

What about non-Test players? Though Cricinfo doesn’t help here, there is a Wikipedia article which is also updated frequently:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_oldest_cricketers#Oldest_first-class_cricketers

Snapshot as of 17/09/2016: This covers the top 10 on the list. There were a total of 18 such players.

oldest-fc-players

This covers all FC players who lived/are living past their 100th birthday.This tells us that the oldest FC player was Jim Hutchinson (1896-2000) who lived to be a little short of 104. Norman Gordon is 3rd on the all-time list, while DB Deodhar represents India at 101+

John Manners is the only living FC player above 100. He had made his first-class debut in 1936.

Professor Deodhar is the only Indian to achieve this “century”. However, BK Garudachar died earlier in 2016 soon after crossing 99. He had started his FC career in 1935-36. My fellow trivia-hunter Sreeram points out that Vasant Raiji (better known as a cricket writer) is India’s oldest living FC player (96+) and had made his debut in 1938-39, just before the war. He succeeded Garudachar as the oldest living Indian in this category. Also see:

http://cricketbadger.com/2016/02/vasant-raiji-is-now-indias-oldest-living-first-class-cricketer/

This article from the 2016 Wisden also mentions John Manners as well as Leo Harrison (94+). The latter is the only other surviving player from pre-war England, having made his FC debut just in time in 1939.

Finally, you can also read this post about 250-year old tortoises:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/how-to-live-to-be-250/

 

 

 

 

“Foreign” station signs in Britain

If there is one thing crazier than an Indian railfan, it is the British railfan. They have been at it for over a hundred years with specialized publications starting from the 19th century. Anyway, we take a look at this collection of trivia about British stations:

http://www.railwaycodes.org.uk/stations/bilingual.shtm

To begin with, all stations in Scotland must have signs in English and Gaelic. Likewise in Wales all stations must have signs in English and Welsh. Often there is a considerable difference between the two place names of a station.

In the tiny system on the Isle of Man, it is Manx Gaelic along with English.

Northern Ireland is not covered here.

Then it starts getting interesting. Cantonese in Irlam, Punjabi in Southall, Urdu in Levenshulme.

Here are the signs at Irlam, a small station in Greater Manchester:

A quick look at the Wikipedia article for this place does not say anything about the Chinese population in the vicinity.

Most readers here will be familiar with Southall:

southall

This western suburb of London has a large Punjabi (mainly Sikh) population.

And finally to the lesser-known Levenshulme:

This is also in the Greater Manchester area and has a large population of Pakistani origin.

Extensive research by British railfans has failed to find other station signs in languages other than English. As the article says, there are a number of welcome signs and general signs in various languages, but these are the only platform nameboards in other languages.

Thanks to Mark Lester for pointing me to this site. It contains some other trivia about various aspects of stations in Britain. Note that while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it is not part of Britain.

Afterthoughts: all said and done, Britain has become an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society. The vote for Brexit was partly due to this, though the voter’s ire was directed more against the immigrants from the far-flung parts of the EU rather than the Asians. But one wonders what the average native Brit thinks when the majority of his or her fellow passengers in a Tube coach  are clearly of non-British (and that too non-European) origin. I did observe this phenomenon a decade ago. For that matter, a significant number of rail transport employees (particularly in and around London) are of Asian or West Indian origin, though they and perhaps their parents and even grandparents may have spent their lives there.

There was a time in the late 1940s and early 1950s where the London transport authorities had recruiting offices in places such as Barbados and Jamaica (which were still colonies then) where any able-bodied male was offered free transport to Britain if he was prepared to work for them.

Sometimes I came across interesting combinations, such as a steward on a long-distance train with a typical Tamilian name who had migrated from Malaysia and was settled in Edinburgh. Then there was the West Indian female ticket collector who admired a visiting Indian lady’s dress sense, and the rather large West Indian male ticket collector who approached us suspiciously in a first-class coach, though his attitude changed when he saw our first-class Britrail passes. On other occasions I ended up helping Gujaratis and Pakistanis (who were presumably residents and not tourists) who had problems with the railway system and apparently did not know English well enough to figure things out.