The Kalka-Shimla Railway-a brief account

The Kalka-Shimla mountain railway is one of the best-known railway lines in India and has featured in a number of literary works and at least one BBC documentary in recent years. This is intended to summarize the main points about the line as it is today. The route was opened as a whole (95.68 Km) on 9 Nov 1903. A further 0.77 Km to the “Old bullock train station” was opened on 27 Jun 1909. Possibly the present line (length 95.57 as per current railway database) includes a small portion of the extension. Here we have a list of stations (in both directions). This information is taken from the site http://rbs.indianrail.gov.in/ShortPath/ShortPath.jsp which is useful for the dedicated railfan. I have added the altitude data from passenger timetables. The distances shown below are actual distances, and I am not getting into the complexities of chargeable distance here.

KS Stations1 KS Stations2

The main technical point is that the ruling gradient is 1 in 33 uncompensated. Those who are really fond of number crunching can find the gradients between intermediate stations. Here are the summary of trains running in both directions in May 2015.

KS1 KS2

As you can see, trains are listed as having AC chair car, First Class and Second Class seating. The railcars have only first class. The Shivalik Express and the Himalayan Queen have non-AC seats which are somewhat better than the second class seats, but are charged using the fare tables for AC chair car. The three trains other than the railcar and Shivalik Express have unreserved second class seats, though reserved seats are available only on one train as you can see above.

It is common for the average person or media source to refer to the trains on this line as a toy train. This appears to be unjustified as the trains are as long and as heavy as their narrow gauge counterparts on the plains. And the volume of passenger traffic (at least 5 pairs of daily trains) would be more than that on many broad gauge and metre gauge branch lines.

Additional railcars and trains may run at short notice during the summer. These are generally not given in the printed timetables. However, most knowledgeable travellers have now shifted to the online timetables. The most user-friendly is probably http://erail.in/  from where the above tables are taken. One can also use this website to get timetables for individual trains, such as this one for the downward Himalayan Queen:

KS3

As you can see, this train stops at about half the stations. It seems to have a rake of 5 reserved coaches and two brake cum unreserved coaches. Barog appears to be a mandatory stop for all trains for catering purposes. In fact there is not much of a local population and this station seems to exist only for catering purposes. The station is named after a British construction engineer named Barog (though this does not sound like a typical British surname).

This train connects with a BG express train to New Delhi in both directions. That is also called the Himalayan Queen, though it starts from Kalka with a number of coaches which are removed at Panipat and proceed to Bhiwani as the Ekta Express. There are also two Shatabdi Expresses to New Delhi and the long-standing Kalka Mail to Old Delhi and Howrah, which is probably one of the oldest long-distance trains on IR. There is also a link train which connects Kalka to the Paschim Express to and from Mumbai.

There are many videos about this line available on Youtube; as a sample here are some taken by my family in 2010:

Shivalik Express: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0NifZGk9w

And from Shimla to Kalka by the Himalayan Queen, plus a bit of Chandigarh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMr-rg1WUAs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I02rQUo_ggY

The “Singh is King” cricket XI (2020 update)

Whenever cricket fans are bored, they start creating ideal XIs. This gets boring after a while, so more variations are considered such as left-handed and right-handed XIs, names starting with S and so on.

So here we have a “Singh is King” XI which should be better than the Kings XI. The criteria here is that a player should have played in at least one Test and should have Singh as a surname or middle name. In suggested batting order:

1) Navjot Singh Sidhu

2) Chetan Pratap Singh Chauhan

3) Hanumant Singh

4) A.G. Kripal Singh

5) Yuvraj Singh

6) Yajurvindra Singh

7) Mahendra Singh Dhoni

8) Harbhajan Singh

9) Balwinder Singh Sandhu

10) L. Amar Singh

11) Bishen Singh Bedi

Reserves: Robin Singh (sr), R.P. Singh, Gursharan Singh, Maninder Singh, and finally Mudhsuden Singh Panesar.

One may say that the middle order is a bit weak but Nos 7 and 8 should provide enough backup (even No 8 has two test centuries). One might argue that Robin Singh is not a good enough bowler for Tests, but he could be included for his ODI batting so he could replace Sandhu  though this would weaken the bowling.

Although Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji are sometimes spelt as Singh (like their Saurashtran relative Yajurvindra), cricket literature almost invariably uses the former variant.

Not everyone here wears a turban, but it would be prudent not to make Santa-Banta jokes nearby. One could possibly construct another list consisting of turbaned players alone, though one may not be able to find all eleven who were Test players.

This team should  generally beat Afghanistan or Ireland (or Zimbabwe or Bangladesh on an off day).

Tail piece: the movie title “Singh is Kinng” is said to have been taken from the back of a truck.

Acronyms true and false

We take many acronyms and their explanation for granted. A good example is VT, the prefix for civil aircraft registered in India. Many times we may have heard in quizzes that this stands for Viceroy’s Territory. This is untrue, as we will see below. It is a kind of reverse engineering to find something which fits the initials.

As my friend Ash Nallawalla pointed out….”India has several sequential prefixes as part of a global assignment. VU is used for radio callsigns, for example in amateur radio; VT for aircraft etc. If you check the global allocations, you will see that the main British dominions and colonies were in the Vx series. Australia uses VK and VL for radio (possibly more), VH for aircraft etc. It is just reverse translation by people who need to remind themselves of our British colonization every day.”

Another famous one is “Military Headquarters Of War” for Mhow which many people consider to be true. This phrase seems to be too clumsy to be true and apparently was created by someone as an afterthought. This is what Wikipedia says:

“There is total lack of unanimity on how Mhow got its name. One possible source of the name might be the Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) tree, which grows in profusion in the forests around Mhow.

Some articles in popular literature state that MHOW stands for Military Headquarters Of War. However, this is a backronym, and there is no proof to support the theory that the name of the village comes from the acronym. The village near Mhow was called Mhow Gaon in the pre-British era, when English was not used in India. The Cantonment which came up in 1818 came to be known as Mhow Cantt after the name of this village. Sir John Malcolm spelt the name of this town as MOW in his writings. The 1918 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica also mentions ‘MAU’. However, the Cantonment was referred to by British officers as Mhow at least as early as the end of 1823 (letter from Lt Edward Squibb to his father in London).”

A lesser known backronym from the Army is the one for Babina near Jhansi: “British Army Base In Native Asia” and sometimes……Northern Asia”. This also sounds as contrived as the one above, as the phrase “Native Asia” does not seem to be used anywhere else. And Northern Asia would be Siberia where Britain never had a hold.

The airline and railway companies have many examples of this sort;

Queer And Nasty Types As Stewards

Better On A Camel (and in the mid-60s, Bend Over Again Christine)-google for Christine Keeler if you didn’t get it.

Pan Demonium Scareways

Good Airline Run Under Dutch Administration (i.e. Garuda of Indonesia)

and the jokes about the FA asking “do you want TWA tea or TWA coffee”.

From the British railways we have:

London & Nearly Everywhere Railway, a fair description of the London and North Eastern Railway during its heydays.

There are a number of nasty ones connected with the Indian Railways:

Bribes Never Refused – BNR, predecessor of the SER before the 2002 reorganization.

Great Improvement Possible – GIPR, predecessor of most of CR as it was pre – 2002

Sambar Idli Railway – SIR, most of the present SR

Mails Slowly Moving – M & SMR, now part of SR, SWR and SCR

and the nastiest would be:

Beastly, Bad and Cannot Improve – BB & CIR (predecessor of the WR  as it was pre – 2002).

This article may be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backronym

“No goose, no gander”

This was the slogan on this airline advertisement in the late 1950s:

No goose no gander

The small print may tell you that it was issued by El Al. To understand the story behind this, we must first identify the goose and the gander.

A map of the North Atlantic may make things clearer:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@43.9785764,-32.7453284,4z

It shows you the straight-line routes from, say New York to London and Paris. Using the great circle formulae and putting in the coordinates of JFK, LHR and CDG we get:

New York to London: 3451 miles (all miles are statute miles here,not nautical miles).

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=JFK-LHR

New York to Paris: 3635 miles

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=JFK-CDG

The first flight from New York to Paris (not exactly matching JFK and CDG) was made by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, thus ushering in the modern air age as many textbooks may say. But it was not the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. That was back in 1919 by Alcock and Brown with a converted WW1 bomber on a shorter route, from St John’s, Newfoundland (then a British colony and not part of Canada) to a bog near Clifden, Ireland (which was still in the UK at that time). Taking the coordinates we get 1886 miles, considerably less than the more “useful” New York to London route. A rough sketch of this route (with the nearest airport at Galway as the eastern terminus) is:

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=YYT-GWY

The point where they landed in the bog is still marked, while there is an Alcock and Brown Hotel in Clifden.

It followed, therefore that if you wanted to travel between North America and Europe and your airliners had limited range, you would have to have stops in Newfoundland or western Ireland, preferably both so that you could travel to more interesting places such as New York, Toronto, London and Paris.

Thus arose the huge airport at Gander, Newfoundland. A subsidiary airport was also built at Goose Bay in Labrador, (on the mainland of Newfoundland). Similarly, a large airport came up at the practically unknown town of Shannon in the Republic of Ireland. This was close to the town of Limerick, though researchers have failed to prove conclusively that limericks were invented there.

Both Gander and Goose Bay can be seen here:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Goose+Bay+Airport/@50.78814,-55.0941876,6z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x4c7b7a25e4bf9d67:0xbbcbc870ca9fe1dd

And Shannon:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Shannon+Airport/@53.1810897,-8.5608469,8z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x485b41dad0f8b40b:0x6bf3c305b024f8dc

These airports in Newfoundland were intensively used by the Allies during World War 2. After the war got over, trans-Atlantic flights began with an invariable stop at Gander for refueling. When weather there grew too bad, the planes were diverted to Goose Bay.

By the late 1950s, the Britannia turboprops were finally able to manage New York-London without refueling at Gander. Even the BOAC’s Comet 4s had to stop at Gander.

So El Al could proudly announce direct Britannia flights with “No Goose, No Gander”. Ironically the Britannia itself was soon superseded by faster jets such as the Boeing 707.

History did not deal kindly with Gander and Goose Bay airports when they lost their primacy. They stagger along with limited Canadian internal flights, although the US military continues to use Gander. They also used to survive on the Havana-Moscow flights until the collapse of the Soviet Union. These flights became a bit of a pain for the Canadians as numerous frustrated Cubans and Soviets used to seek asylum there. Finally they passed a rule that anyone traveling on a flight which stopped at Gander had to have a Canadian visa.

However, even in 2017 Goose Bay had its day when an Air France A380 made an emergency landing there after an engine exploded on a flight from Paris to Los Angeles:

https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/passengers-describe-seeing-fireball-as-engine-on-air-france-flight-disintegrates-over-atlantic-ocean/ar-AAsH24s?li=AAggbRN&ocid=mailsignout

Although Americans remember Gander more in connection with 9/11:

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/31491/september-11th-and-hospitable-people-gander-newfoundland

Shannon fared somewhat better and still has a number of flights to various parts of Europe as well as the US. Shannon and Dublin (joined recently by Abu Dhabi) are  the few places outside the Americas where the US immigration and customs processes passengers before they leave for the US. There is even an all-business class flight of British Airways which takes off with an Airbus A318 from the tiny airport at London City, stops at Shannon for refueling and processing of passengers, and then goes straight to NYC where the passengers can get off and be on their way without any other formalities. This is numbered BA 001 and is marketed as one of BA’s most elite services:

http://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-classes/business/club-world-london-city

More interesting facts about geese and ganders here:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/the-goose-in-popular-culture/

Refrigerated trains-an afterthought

For many years, refrigerated rail wagons and ships have been carrying freight across the world while refrigerated containers have come in more recently. The generic term for them is “reefers”.

Anyone familiar with 20th century American slang would know that reefer is another popular slang term for marijuana. It does seem to have a remarkable number of synonyms such as ganja, grass, Mary Jane, pot, cannabis etc. There is a well known ‘public service film’ produced on behalf of the US government in the 1930s called “Reefer Madness”, which film historians consider to be a rather clumsy attempt at educating the young about the dangers of drugs.

It has been nominated for awards for “worst film of all time”, though there are more deserving candidates such as “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, “Manos-the Hands of Fate” and “The Beast of Yucca Flats”. There was also a companion film called “Sex Madness” which has a similar reputation. You can see these films of ill-repute on Youtube.

Someone in the US started the Razzie Awards (for raspberry) for worst film, worst actor etc exactly on the lines of the Oscar awards. This continues to thrive. Some stalwarts like Sharon Stone have won multiple awards. Bollywood caught on to this later and someone started the “Ghanta awards” which are still awarded each year. The initial symbol of this was a prominent Bollywood villain in the nude with a strategically placed ghanta (though this picture seems to have vanished from the net now). Well, it was photoshopped from this picture:

http://s742.photobucket.com/user/veerupaaji/media/top_rapists_bolly_55.jpg.html

Also see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghanta_Awards

There is also a rival Golden Kela award ceremony.

Back to reefers and the unfortunately named West Indian Test cricketer named Floyd Reifer. (Yes, you can see a PJ coming but this time it was not devised by me). He started off his Test career (as a specialist batsman) with 29 versus Sri Lanka in 1997. That was to be his career best score. His Test career seemed to be over in 1999 by when he had made a total of 63 runs at 7.87 (not too different from Vizzy’s career average). Even the more nerdish followers of Test cricket thought they had seen the last of him, although he continued to score heavily in domestic cricket.

Over 10 years later, he got another opportunity to play for the West Indies and that too as a captain when, in one of their periodic crises, the WI first XI and most of the second XI decided to boycott a 2-Test series against Bangladesh. A hurriedly put together third XI took the field. The captain made some brave speeches about his team beating Bangladesh in these circumstances, prompting local journalists to ask if he had been “smoking something sounding like his name”. Here you can see the sum total of his career:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/52808.html

As you know, Bangladesh won the series 2-0 and the captain and most of the West Indies players of that team vanished without a trace. Their only new face from this series who is still around is Kemar Roach.

How Indian Railways improvises-a makeshift generator van for refrigerated containers.

I saw this on a JNPT-bound container train at Panvel in 2007. It had some refrigerated containers presumably containing some perishable food items for export. Now refrigerated containers need lots of power, for which a generator is needed. This is how IR solved the problem:

Container-gen 001

Another view of the same:

Container-gen 002

Note the Maersk refrigerated container on the right. Though it may not be clearly visible here, there are power cables connecting it with the generator van on the left. If you look carefully, you will see that the generator is kept in an old container which may have passed its useful life. Still it was found to be good enough to house a large generator.

Note the small door at the side, which is the generator attendant’s cabin. Conditions must be quite hot inside, which is why he was wearing an undervest when he got down for a well deserved breath of fresh air. Being in close proximity to a noisy and polluting diesel genset must not be very healthy. At least his counterparts on the Rajdhanis and Shatbdis have slightly better working conditions.

Anyway this can be taken as a good example of recycling of used containers.

The goose in popular culture

(Statutory warning: this is not about Arnab Goswami or any other Goswami.)

The goose may not be a particularly impressive-looking creature.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is domestic_goose.jpg

But it has contributed a lot to the English language and to popular culture. You have:

Goose pimples (Americanized to goose bumps)

Gooseberries (also known as Amla in parts of India)

Goose-necked lamps:

Goose neck lamp

Phrases: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” or “killing the goose which lays golden eggs”.

Or threats: “I’ll cook your goose”.

Works of literature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Goose:_A_Story_of_Dunkirk (This story was quite popular in the past)

Going down the scale, we have Gus Goose, a distant relative of Donald Duck:

Gus Goose

The cricketer Gary Gilmour was nicknamed Gus because, like this character, he constantly got injured in various mishaps.

And there was Goosey Goosey Gander. As in many old nursery rhymes, there is a historical context:

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/goosey_goosey_gander.htm

The word goose is generally used for both male and female, though the correct term is gander for a male, goose for a female and gosling for the young.

And the 19th century limerick writers did not leave the goose unscathed:

Said an old Chinese mandarin.
There’s a subject I’d like to use candour in:
The geese in Pekin
Are so steeped in sin
That they’d sooner let a man in than a gander in.

Fans of Vernon Philander would be dismayed to note that there is an alternative second line which says:

“I’ve found in the course of philanderin’ “

And while the Nazis may not have invented the goose-step, they will always be associated with it:

Which was duly lampooned in this 1940s British comedy:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goose_Steps_Out

Goose is also a verb:

goose
ɡuːs/
noun
noun: goose; plural noun: geese; plural noun: gooses
  1. 1.
    a large waterbird with a long neck, short legs, webbed feet, and a short broad bill. Generally geese are larger than ducks and have longer necks and shorter bills.
    • a female goose.
    • the flesh of a goose as food.
  2. 2.
    informal
    a foolish person.
    “‘Silly goose,’ he murmured fondly”

verb

informal
verb: goose; 3rd person present: gooses; past tense: goosed; past participle: goosed; gerund or present participle: goosing
  1. 1.
    poke (someone) in the bottom.
  2. 2.
    North American
    give (something) a boost; invigorate.
    “the government’s desire to goose the tired housing market”
    And the gander also has a verb in old slang:
    gander
    ˈɡandə/
    noun
    noun: gander; plural noun: ganders
    1. 1.
      a male goose.
    2. 2.
      informal
      a look or glance.
      take a gander at the luggage, will ya?”

    verb

    USinformal
    verb: gander; 3rd person present: ganders; past tense: gandered; past participle: gandered; gerund or present participle: gandering
    1. 1.
      look or glance at something.
      “Paulie gandered at shelves full of coffee paraphernalia”
      However, all of this does not explain why several major airlines put out ads like this “No Goose, No Gander” in the early 1950s:
      No goose no gander
      This is a little more complicated, but has a perfectly logical explanation. More about this later.

More of “Make mine a double”

As we have seen, only three batsmen have made their maiden Test century a triple century. There are many more whose maiden century was a double century. Fortunately this topic was recently mentioned in Steven Lynch’s Cricinfo column. Here is the list (as of May 2015):

Highest maiden century

A long list of 35 players, indeed. But there are many subtleties involved. In some cases the double century was the only Test century the player made. And a few of these double centuries were made on debut. In two cases the double century on debut was the only century by that player. We take a further look at the above table.

When we have a list of centuries made by each player, we can further analyze how these maiden centuries were significant. The tables below give some comments for each of the above players, bringing out some relatively rare occurrences:

DCD 001

DCD 002

DCD 003

More from the “border from hell”-Hili (updated in May 2017)

If you are reading this, you probably have read about the weird border between India and Bangladesh in the Cooch Behar/Rangpur region. If not, you might as well read it now:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/india-and-bangladesh-the-border-from-hell/

But there are plenty of other strange things on the borders of these countries. Many of them arise from the Radcliffe line of partition.

For the basics, read the first few paragraphs of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe_Line

Or this: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/peacocks-at-sunset/?_r=0

The writer of the latter piece is quite knowledgeable though he fails to mention that Sylhet district of Assam was also partitioned.

Today I will deal with one specific oddity which is on the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh.

The actual reports produced by the Radcliffe Commission total only about 7 pages, dealing with the partition of Punjab, Bengal and Sylhet district of Assam. Strangely enough these documents do not seem to be easily available anywhere on the net, though they are readily available in various publications. The following extract is from p.21 of “Committees & Commissions in India, 1947-54″ compiled by Virendra Kumar (Concept Publishing, Delhi, 1976)

” The line shall run…….and will terminate at the point where the boundary between Phulbari and Balurghat meets the north-south line of the Bengal & Assam Railway in the eastern corner of the Thana of Balurghat. The line shall turn down the western edge of the railway lands and follow that edge until it meets the boundary between the Thanas of Balurghat and Panchbibi”

What this means is the boundary line (which was basically intended to segregate Hindu-majority and Muslim-majority areas) needed some special adjustments to avoid disruption to communication links. This was not the only place this happened. In this particular case the north-south railway line (which was then on the route of the prestigious Darjeeling Mail) remained a major connection between the north-western part of East Pakistan and the rest of the country, and so it should not be disturbed and the Pakistani trains should be able to run without hindrance.

The map of Hili railway station and surroundings:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@25.2788172,89.0098371,16z

You could expand it further if needed. What should be apparent is that the town of Hili lies on both sides of the border, and that the railway embankment itself is the border. The border itself seems to cut through the station premises.

Here are a few pictures from this area:

Border marker near the railway line:

Hili area 1

The black cow is closer to the Indian border than the white cow. Perhaps they come and go across the border. Probably the black cow has realized that her life expectancy will be more in India than in Bangladesh.

An Indian truck waiting to cross the border (which is the railway line itself):

Hili area 2

Note the BG/MG dual gauge track.

A couple of pictures from Hili station itself. The second one shows some semblance of security with the BGB (the equivalent of the BSF):

(As in many smaller stations in Bangladesh, the signboards may be only in Bengali).

To get a better idea of the ground situation, here is a segment of a documentary by CNN-IBN which apparently dates to 2007. It should be self-explanatory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ntOdCQuZoc

As you can see, at that time no one seemed to bother if you crossed the border in either direction. Probably things are a little tighter now, though the great wall of barbed wire probably has a break here.

Here is a video of Bangladeshi trains passing Hili station, taken from the Indian side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-xek8UeS0E

Here you can see the “Welcome to Bangladesh” sign right next to the railway line.

A Bangladeshi video showing BGB officers visiting Hili station. You can see the border markers in the station premises:

Finally, a better view from the Bangladesh side. This is a video shot by a Bangladeshi visitor to the border areas (in Bengali with English subtitles).

Not sure if you would find the entire video interesting, but 1.20 to 2.50 pertains to Hili with coverage of the station and the border.

Make mine a double…..No, a triple (Part 2)

Gary Sobers was the first to score a maiden Test century which was a triple. Only two other batsmen (KK Nair being the latest addition) have done this. Although the circumstances here were not so dramatic, Bob Simpson’s Test career was more conventional but there was a twist in the end.

Robert Baddeley Simpson (generally known as Bob Simpson) was, unlike Sobers, a specialist batsman from the start. A right-hand batsman and occasional leg-spinner, he made his debut against South Africa in 1957-58 with 60 and 23* at No 6 and no bowling in a draw:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62830.html

He did well enough to keep getting selected and tended towards opening the batting. He also had occasional useful spells as a change bowler. In due course he captained Australia, starting with the 2nd Test against South Africa in 1963-64. Everything went well except for the lack of centuries.

After Australia regained the Ashes in 1958-59, the next few series were defensive stalemates with 1-1 victories in 1961, 1962-63 and so on until Snow’s bowling finally got back the Ashes in 1970-71.

Our story begins in earnest at the 4th Ashes Test at Manchester in 1964. Simpson was now opening and had  a good opening partner in Bill Lawry. Australia led the series 1-0 and only had to avoid defeat here to be sure of retaining the Ashes. Until the previous Test, these were Simpson’s figures:

Simpson1

No less than 14 fifties with a top score of 92 (twice). He had not done particularly well in the first three Tests of the series, and had not even claimed the occasional wicket.

Simpson2

Thus dawned Simpson’s 30th Test at Old Trafford, Manchester on 23 Jul 1964. This was not considered to be a batsman’s wicket and perhaps the wounds of Laker’s 19-90 in 1956 were still raw. On this occasion England’s bowling lineup was not particularly good, including the soon-to-be forgotten Fred Rumsey opening with an equally undistinguished John Price (who played long enough to trouble Gavaskar in 1971). The only bowler who stood the test of time was Fred Titmus, while part-timers like Dexter and Boycott also bowled in this match.

Simpson and Lawry opened and both got centuries (Lawry 106) in an opening stand of 201. At close on the first day (23 Jul) Australia had made 253/2 with Simpson on his maiden century with 109* and O’Neill on 10*.

Unlike in Sobers’s record-breaking innings which we saw earlier, nothing obviously went wrong with England’s bowling. It simply wasn’t good enough. At the end of the second day (24 Jul) Australia was 570/4 with Simpson crossing the second hurdle with 265* and Booth on 82 not out.

On the 3rd day Simpson’s marathon innings ended on 311, dismissed by the hard-working Price who ended with 3-183. Australia finally declared at 656/8 and England made a strong reply with 162/2 with captain Dexter (71*) and Barrington (20*) at the crease at the end of 25 Jul.

After the rest day, the rest of the match was somewhat of an anticlimax with England grinding out 611 (Dexter 174, Barrington 256) after finishing the 4th day with 411/3 (Barrington 153*, Parfitt 12*). McKenzie did take 7 wickets but did not seem to have much support. Veivers with 3 wickets was the only other successful bowler.

The innings dragged on for so long that Australia only batted two overs for 4/0 in the closing stages. But they led 1-0 with one to go, and the Ashes remained Down Under. Here is the scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62950.html

Simpson then broke out of his century drought, though unlike Sobers he did not cross 50 in the next Test. His final tally was 4869 runs with 10 centuries including the triple and two doubles. There were also 71 wickets with two fivers as well as 110 catches. He was set to retire after India’s visit in 1967-68 which predictably ended in a 4-0 sweep. But that was not the end of his career. He got a surprise Test recall almost 10 years later during the Packer crisis. Let Wikipedia take up the story here:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

“When Test cricket was decimated by the breakaway World Series Cricket in 1977, Simpson made a comeback after a decade in retirement to captain New South Wales and Australia at the age of 41. All of Australia’s first-choice players had defected apart from Jeff Thomson. Simpson had been playing for Western Suburbs in Sydney Grade Cricket but had not been playing at first-class level for a decade.

Bob Simpson’s career performance graph.

His first assignment was a five Test series against India, and Simpson began where he left off a decade earlier. He top-scored with 89 in the second innings of the First Test in Brisbane, before scoring 176 and 39 as Australia won in Perth. Simpson failed to pass double figures in the Third Test in Melbourne, and made 30s in both innings in Sydney, as the Indians won two consecutive Tests to level the series. Simpson responded with 100 and 51 in the deciding Fifth Test in Adelaide as Australia scraped to a 3–2 series victory. Simpson totaled 539 runs at 53.90 and took four wickets.

He then led Australia on a tour of the West Indies, then the strongest team in the world. He made only one half century, 67 in the Third Test in Georgetown, Guyana. It was the only Test that Australia won in a 3–1 series loss. He had a disappointing series scoring 199 runs at 22.11 and taking seven wickets at 52.28. Simpson wanted to continue playing Tests as Australia hosted Mike Brearley’s Englishmen in 1978–79. His players wanted him to continue, but the Australian Cricket Board voted him out and installed Graham Yallop as the skipper. During his comeback, he had accumulated his 60th first-class century against Barbados during the Caribbean tour and become the oldest Australian to score a Test century on home soil.”

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It would be fair to say that he played a major role in India’s 3-2 loss though he was out of his depth against the West Indies, even though the last 3 Tests were played against a weak de-Packerized squad.

Thus end the stories of Gary Sobers and Bob Simpson, the first two Test players whose maiden centuries were triples. The third member of this exclusive club was KK Nair in 2016.

A weird coincidence: Although they were quite different types of players who peaked at different times, they were both born in 1936: Sobers on  Jul 28 and Simpson on Feb 3.

UK election trivia-2

In my schooldays a common insult was “Balls to you”. It is unclear whether this is pure Indian English or of British origin.

In later years I taught high school mathematics for some years. Many of the examples for probability in 11th/12th grade involved bags containing black,white and red balls. More about different kinds of balls here:

A major point of interest in the UK elections was the defeat of many stalwarts of the Labour and Lib-Dem party. One of them was former minister Ed Balls:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Balls

Anyway he is young enough and is likely to be a major figure in any Labour government in the distant future. But is the UK ready for a PM with the surname Balls? Probably Germany in the 1930s was not ready for a Fuhrer with the surname Schicklgruber either although it could be argued that this was Adolf Hitler’s actual surname. He was lucky as “Heil Hitler” sounds much snappier than “Heil Schicklgruber”. More on Hitler’s family name here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alois_Hitler

However, the fact is that the UK did have a Prime Minister whose surname was originally Ball. More about John Major’s ancestry here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Major-Ball

and a shorter one here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/348932.stm

While on this topic, Bill Clinton’s surname came from his stepfather. His actual father was named Blythe, as we see from this extract:

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Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr. (1918–1946), was a traveling salesman who died in an automobile accident three months before Bill was born. His mother, Virginia Dell (née Cassidy; 1923–1994), traveled to New Orleans to study nursing soon after he was born. She left Bill in Hope with her parents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store. At a time when the Southern United States was segregated racially, Bill’s grandparents sold goods on credit to people of all races. In 1950, Bill’s mother returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton, Sr., who owned an automobile dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his brother and Earl T. Ricks. The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950.

Bill Clinton’s boyhood home in Hope, Arkansas

Although he immediately assumed use of his stepfather’s surname, it was not until Billy (as he was known then) turned fifteen that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather.

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Would he have had such an easy run in public life as Bill Blythe rather than Bill Clinton? Or would Hillary Blythe have a better shot at the White House than Hillary Clinton? After all, Clinton is a more “recognizable” American surname than Blythe.

Cricket fans may wonder if he had any connection with this prominent Test player of the 1900s:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/9134.html

Colin Blythe’s 15-wicket haul was one of the best match bowling figures of that period. He was one of several prominent cricketers who were killed in the Great War.

UK election trivia-1

One of the main stories of this election was the near-wipeout of all “national” parties from Scotland. Of the 59 parliamentary seats there, the local party won 56 with the Tories, Labour and Lib-Dems winning one each. (Sounds a bit like the 67/70 in Delhi not so long ago, though it would be difficult to identify the analogues of Mr Kejriwal and Ms Bedi here).

The three seats which defied the trend were:

Edinburgh South: Labour

Dumfriesshire…: Conservative

Orkney and Shetland: Liberal-Democrat

The constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedsdale is of some interest to those familiar with the history of disasters. It includes Lockerbie (site of the worst aviation disaster in the UK) while a few miles away is the old railway installation of Quintinshill, which was the site of the UK’s worst rail disaster in 1915:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintinshill_rail_disaster

However, we turn our attention the the constituency of Orkney and Shetland, which is the second smallest constituency in the UK. It has an electorate of about 33,000 while most others have around 60,000 all over the UK. In case you are wondering, the smallest constituency is the one corresponding to the Outer Hebrides islands to the west of the Scottish mainland.

The system in India has somewhat more distortion as there are many small states and union territories which have one seat with electorates considerably lower than that of constituencies in most of India. A few examples would be Lakshadweep, the Andamans, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Sikkim and Mizoram. This allows for freak results. India’s smallest constituency

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshadweep_%28Lok_Sabha_constituency%29

did return an NCP member in 2014, though the party did badly in most of India. It now has only 6 Lok Sabha MPs. The Lib-Dem victory seems to follow a similar pattern.

Coming back to the Orkney and Shetland islands. They are the most isolated part of the UK with the Shetland islands being a bit closer to Norway than the British mainland.

I have traveled a bit in Scotland but have not been to that area. However, there is an interesting sidelight which I heard from my father. He had moved to Britain in late 1947 in the course of higher education. He spent most of his time in London, but sometimes did travel to out-of-the-way places.

In those days there were a fair number of South Asians in the UK, though much less than in the present. And they were more concentrated in London and a few major cities. It is understandable that the Orkney Islanders of c.1948 would not be familiar with the Sikh community.

My father somehow ended up on one of the ferries running between various islands of the Orkneys. On the boat he met a Sikh gentleman (complete with turban and beard) who was a traveling pedlar. Nearby there a couple of young Scottish boys aged around 10 who were watching the Sikh intently. Naturally the Sikh was glad to meet someone who was from (roughly) his part of the world and he was even more glad to see that my father could speak Hindi fluently. I suppose his English was not too good, as he could not understand what one young Scot whispered to the other:

“Look, Harry! It speaks!”