The last flight of Ross Gregory

Ross Gregory’s name may not be familiar to today’s cricket fans. But in 1937 he was thought to be the next big thing in Australia’s batting, scoring 23, 50 and 80 in his first (and only) three Test innings soon after he turned 21.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/5436.html

While he did not play on the 1938 tour of England, he would have been expected to play when international cricket resumed after the war. Unfortunately, he died in a wartime flying accident on June 10, 1942.

The official details of this incident are taken from an Australian military website:

Ross Gregory 001

We see that he was the observer on a RAF Wellington bomber of 215 squadron, which exploded in the air near Gafargaon. This was then in Mymensingh district of Bengal, not Assam as mentioned in some references. It was about 50 km from the Assam border at that time.

The crew of 6 included 4 Australians including the two pilots, plus 2 from the RAF. Pilot Officer Ross Gregory was the only officer aboard.

215 squadron was then known to be based in Pandaveswar (near Asansol) and engaged in bombing and supply dropping missions in Burma. Later this airfield was used by the US forces for bombing and transport missions.

A file picture of this model of aircraft:

1920px-WellingtonBomber

This appears to have been an accident, as there is no mention of enemy action. This was well within India’s territory where Japanese fighters rarely came. Probably a load of bombs or other ordnance exploded in the air.

The location map of this region is given below:

Gafargaon

The town of Gafargaon is slightly to the west of the centre. It is now the headquarters of Gafargaon upazila (sub-district) in Mymensingh district of Mymensingh division of Bangladesh.

While several Test players died in military action during World War 2, this appears to be the only such case in Asia.

As mentioned in the above military record, the location of the graves could not be found after the war and thus they are listed as “Missing with no known grave”.

Note: David Frith wrote a biography:

The Ross Gregory Story. Melbourne: Lothian Books. 2003. ISBN 0734405987.

It is currently available on Amazon co uk and other sites.

 

 

Review of World Cup performances up to 2015: All-round performance

Here we look at overall all-round performances (note the criteria):

World Cup AR overall

Numbers 1, 2 and 5 are not surprising, while other obvious choices such as Botham and Hadlee did not do that well in the World Cup. CZ Harris represents the value of the bits-and-pieces all-rounder, while TM Odoyo contributed a lot to Kenya’s limited successes.

Finally we come to

Match performances (40 runs and 4 wickets):

World Cup AR match

Which would be the best performance here? Nominally it would be the century + 4wis of Kloppenburg and Dilshan, but they were against weak teams. The same might be said of Yuvraj’s 50 + 5wi (the only such instance in the World Cup).

If you consider performance against moderately strong teams, then we would consider those of Fletcher, Kapil and Russell.

Review of World Cup performances up to 2015: Fielding

We have looked at the World Cup records for batting and bowling. We now look at fielding.

Most dismissals (15 and above):

World Cup-total dismissals

Sangakkara and Gilchrist lead by a large margin. Sangakkara also has the most stumpings, and Gilchrist the most catches by a keeper.

Similarly Ponting leads non-keepers by a large margin.

Umar Akmal has the same number of catches as a keeper and non-keeper.

Most innings dismissals (4 and above):

World Cup-innings dismissals

Gilchrist and Sarfaraz Ahmed have the record with 6 catches in an innings.

No one has more than 2 stumpings.

Among non-keepers, the record is 4 by M Kaif, S Sarkar and Umar Akmal.

Kaif had the record to himself from 2003 until the other 2 joined him in 2015.

Finally, the dismissal rates.

Highest dismissal rates (Minimum 20 innings, 0.600 and above):

World Cup-Dismissal rate

Gilchrist leads the keepers and GC Smith the non-keepers.

 

ODI rankings before the 2019 World Cup

Note these rankings published on May 22, 2019.

The Tests had got over by May 2, the ODIs by May 21 and some T20Is are in progress among minor teams such as Namibia and Kenya.

We concentrate on the ODI rankings:

ICC ratings May 22 2019

We see that the top 10 teams are indeed the same teams playing in the World Cup.

This ranking seems to show that England and India are close together, followed by the pair of South Africa and New Zealand. Next is Australia and there is a steep fall to Pakistan and the others. This seems to conform to general opinion. As Australia had been without two of their key players for a year, they now have the capacity to get a semi-final place at the expense of South Africa or New Zealand.

You can also see the T20I rankings of the major teams.

 

 

A mockery of cricket (2)

As earlier mentioned, all T20 matches between ICC members now have T20I status. This has led to highly one-sided results, though there have also been surprises such as the Thai women’s team winning against Sri Lanka.

We now come to the case of non-local players in a national team. Some teams such as the UAE have been doing this for years, But one should remember that more than 50% of UAE’s population are expatriates, many of whom are from cricket majors such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Oman and Hong Kong have followed a similar policy, as have other potential “major market” teams such as the USA and Canada. Some African teams such as Kenya have  Asian players whose families have lived there for generations, similar to the Kallicharans and Chanderpauls of the West Indies.

China, to its credit, has stuck to indigenous players in spite of suffering heavy losses.

Countries of the British Isles have (in recent years) been dependent on “imports” from various sources such as Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and South Asia. Admittedly, many of those from the “white Commonwealth” (such as Trott, Strauss, Pietersen and Caddick) are those whose families had migrated FROM Britain one or two generations ago.

And there are weird cases such as Andrew Symonds (born in Britain to West Indian parents, grew up in Britain, played for Australia). Another is Dimitri Mascarenhas (born in Britain to Sri Lankan parents, grew up in Australia and finally played for England).

And there are those of Asian origin such as current players Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid and others from the recent past such as Ravi Bopara and Monty Panesar who have lived in Britain all their lives.

Dependence on foreign players (even if they are from former colonies) seems to be important in some major soccer teams, a good example being France. But there have been critics of this from within France, particularly when they won the World Cup in 1998 (when Zidane scored the first two goals in the final). Politicians such as Le Pen had nasty things to say then.

Now we come to the western European countries. Apart from the Netherlands, there is little tradition of cricket and most teams have to depend on imports (especially from South Asia, predominantly from Pakistan and now Afghanistan).

To prove this point, we look at the recent 3-match T20I series between Belgium and Germany. Belgium met its Waterloo, losing 3-0 in the matches played at (where else?) Waterloo.

You can see details of this series here:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/scores/series/19254/germany-in-belgium-t20is-2019

Let us take the scorecard of any of the matches, say the second one:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19254/scorecard/1183921/belgium-vs-germany-2nd-t20i-germany-tour-of-belgium-2019

We can see that the German team has 10 of the 11 members clearly from South Asia, certainly from India and Pakistan and perhaps Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. There is one with an Anglo-Saxon name called Daniel Weston who was born and brought up in Australia (Perth) but NOT Germany. Presumably all are citizens or permanent residents of Germany, but what is it doing to popularize cricket among the average sports followers in Germany? Not much.

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

Now look at the Belgian team.

All 11 in the team appear to be of Pakistani or Afghan origin. (Possibly some are from India, but I doubt it). And both Germany and Belgium do NOT have a tradition of immigration from South Asia as Britain has.

What good is this doing to develop European cricket if the match between Germany and Belgium includes 21 South Asians and one Aussie? Particularly when practically all of these players would be unlikely to make any decent team in their own country?

And the German and Belgian sports fans would stick to watching their soccer, hockey or tennis players rather than cricket.

Tail piece: In the 3rd T20I Weston did not play so  the match could well be described as German South Asians vs Belgian South Asians.

 

Multilingual railway coaches

You have heard of multilingual signs on railway stations in India. They will have at least 2 languages, English and Hindi and whatever else is widely used in that area-the regional language such as Tamil or Bengali, Urdu in some states and sub-states, the neighboring state’s language and so on.

There are numerous stations with 4 languages, and at least two with 5: Raichur in Karnataka and Krishna in Telangana, which have English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu.

Sometimes it seems illogical to find some languages on a signboard, such as in Cachar and two other districts of Assam where the signs have Bengali and not Assamese. (Nothing unusual since Bengali is the official language here).

Sri Lanka seems to have a strict 3-language formula of Sinhala/English/Tamil which is followed regardless of the Sinhala or Tamil population in a particular place.

Bangladesh has a simpler policy: Only Bengali, except for larger stations where English is added.

Pakistan seems to generally follow the Indian pattern with English and Urdu everywhere and regional languages as well, in Sind and parts of KP province but not in Baluchistan.

A few posts on station signs and language policies are elsewhere on this blog.

Anyway, today we look at an unusual coach in Chennai:

MSM wagon 1

MSM wagon 2

Copyright of these pictures is with the original photographer.

These pictures were taken some years ago at the Perambur workshops (NOT the ICF). Not sure where it is now.

As you can see, this broad gauge troop wagon belonged to the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, and probably dates back to the 1930s or earlier.

In its time, the M & SM (“Mails Slowly Moving”) covered parts of the present Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Thus the sign has English, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil which should cover all eventualities where the wagon would carry troops.

Also note that a British soldier’s bottom is understood to be larger than his native counterpart’s bottom.

 

A mockery of cricket (1)

Over the last year, the ICC has decided to give T20I status to ANY match between men’s sides (as well as women’s sides) from countries whose cricket boards are part of ICC. This is regardless of cricketing ability.

This also means that all T20Is starting from 2018-2019 (for women’s matches) and 2019 for men’ s matches are included in official statistics as well as official rankings.

You can see statistics on http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html or similar sites.

And ICC rankings can be seen here: http://www.relianceiccrankings.com/test/date-specific.php  for player rankings

and http://www.espncricinfo.com/rankings/content/page/211271.html  for team rankings.

One expected outcome was very one-sided matches, such as this:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/25749943/all-14-china-slump-lowest-women-t20i-total

in which China was all out for 14 in 10 overs, in reply to UAE’s 203/3 in 20 overs. China’s efforts included 6 ducks and an unbeaten 0.

From the scorecard http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19111/scorecard/1171353/china-women-vs-united-arab-emirates-women-group-a-thailand-womens-t20-smash-2018-19

we see that China at least has all or most of the players from their own country, while UAE’s team seems to include players from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with a token local player (much like the UAE’s men’s teams of the past).

Knowing the Chinese, they will gradually get better and will probably be challenging established teams after a few years. At the time of writing in May 2019, you can see that UAE is ranked 16th and China 75th (out of 79). China is one of the 6 teams with zero points.

If this is a mockery of international cricket, there is a still bigger mockery when the national team of a Western European country entirely consists of South Asians. And that is true of men’s cricket as well. This will be covered next.

Rail Quiz-May 2019

This time it is with a focus on ancient history.

Answers included below. Best results were by Debatra Mazumdar and Jishnu Mukerji.

  1. Look at this old picture of Delhi JnDelhi Jn NWR

Is there something wrong with it? Why or why not?

(Nothing wrong. It was in the North Western Railway until 1948.)

2. You know about the Grand Chord via Gaya and Dhanbad. Why is the word “Grand” used? You know it is a chord line with respect to the “main line” via Patna, so what is grand about it?

(The first line connecting Calcutta to northern India was along the Ganga via Sahibganj and Bhagalpur. This was running by the end of the 1860s. The next shortening was from Burdwan to Kiul via Asansol and Jhajha, which was opened in the 1870s and was called the Chord line. When the distance was shortened still further from Asansol to Mughal Sarai via Dhanbad and Gaya, the route was called the Grand Chord.)

3. Sticking to the Grand Chord, a look at Google Maps or other large-scale maps would show a sharp S-curve at Gaya. Is there any logical reason for this? After all, you would not like to have sharp curves on an important line.

(The Patna-Gaya line was completed first. Naturally as the line was in a north-south direction, the terminus at Gaya was aligned that way. When the Grand Chord came along with its slight north-west direction, there had to be sharp curves. You can see similar curves while traveling north or south through Itarsi. Many similar examples are there.)

4. You know Khanalampura near Saharanpur, which is a newly opened electric loco shed. In the past it was the site  for one of the largest marshalling yards in India. Now Saharanpur does not seem to be that important a junction, so why was such a yard constructed there?

(It was the main junction for goods interchange between the EIR and NWR, the largest systems of undivided India. It even had the largest steam shunters, the 0-8-0 XGs. These tended to damage the tracks so they became the 2-8-2 XG/Ms.)

5. There are a number of sugar factories along the line between Saharanpur and Meerut. One of them has building with a sign “E.P. Rly 1951”. Explain what this means.

(After partition, the portion of the NWR remaining in India was called the East Punjab Railway. This covered practically all of the present Punjab, Haryana and Delhi and parts of UP and Rajasthan. By 1954 it became part of the new Northern Railway.)

6. On August 13, 1947 which was the northern-most station on IR?

(Dargai in NWFP, on a branch going north from Nowshera. It has been closed for several years now.)

7. On August 13, 1947 which was the western-most station on IR? It was not (and still is not) part of India or even Pakistan.

(Zahidan (and Mirjawa to its east). They are in Iran, and Zahidan (earlier Duzdap) was the western terminus of the NWR and thus IR. There was apparently no stoppage at the border then. At that time Nok Kundi in Baluchistan was the westernmost station of IR in India. Trains ran from Quetta to Zahidan. Today the line still functions but there does not seem to be more than one train in either direction in a week.)

8. Walajah Road is a relatively minor station now. But it has an important place in India’s railway history. Why? And what was its earlier name?

(The first passenger train in South India ran from Madras (Royapuram) to here in 1855. It was then called Arcot, although that town is some distance away and has not been connected by rail yet.)

9. Until Partition, which was the only stoppage for most express trains between Amritsar and Lahore? Why was it an important station?

(While Atari and Wagah stations existed, they were served only by slow passenger trains. The one stop was at Moghalpura (one stop east of Lahore Jn), which was an important railway centre with a number of workshops and offices. It was earlier called Meean Meer East and then Lahore Cantt East).

10. Which station on the former EIR was the site of a long siege during the War of Independence in 1857?

(Arrah (now Ara) to the west of Patna. It is covered well in most histories of the war. Though the besieged building may not have been the station building, it was close to the line being constructed and was largely manned by troops and others connected to the railways. Another well-known but shorter siege was near Bharwari station, west of Allahabad).

Bonus: What similarity do you see between Abu Dhabi airport and Castle Rock station?

(A bit complex. Castle Rock is last station in British India (Bombay province) and independent India (Mysore state, later Karnataka) before entering Goa. Naturally, this was an international border until the end of 1961. The Portuguese customs and immigration staff were posted here and conducted their checks, before passengers could continue their journey to Goa.

Now the US has a similar agreement with several airports such as Abu Dhabi, Dublin and Shannon in Ireland, and several others in the Caribbean and Canada. There is even one such post at Vancouver railroad station in Canada. The US CBP conducts their checks here. If they don’t like you, it saves them the problem of sending you back from the US. And they cannot arrest you either.)

The story of Vadnagar station

This must be one of the better known small stations in India:

Vadnagar

And this is its tea stall (though it does not seem to have functioned for a long time).

Vadnagar tea stall

A FAQ of the last few years has been whether the present Prime Minister had indeed sold tea here during his younger days (maybe 1960-65).

One answer you may have seen in the popular media is that the station did not even exist until 1973 so the above assertion is wrong.

But it is always better to check the primary records.

It is easy to find that Vadnagar is on the Mahesana-Taranga Hill metre gauge line (which is presently being converted to broad gauge). It is presently on the Western Railway.

This line was initially constructed by the Gaekwar’s Mehsana Railway (spellings as in original records).

Mehsana to Vadnagar was opened on 21 March 1887.

Vadnagar to Kheralu on 12 December 1888.

Kheralu to Taranga Hill on 20 August 1909.

(Mehsana was linked to Ahmedabad since 1879).

Vadnagar station is shown in the Indian Bradshaw (timetables) of 1935, 1943 and later.

So it certainly did exist before 1973.

What some people have said is that it (like other stations on this route) was very small and had little or no amenities until 1973. It is a little difficult to verify this unless one is familiar with this area for a long time.

Reference is also made to an RTI which allegedly says that no record (of any tea stall owned by Mr Damodardas Modi at Vadnagar station) can be found. Even if this is true, it does not mean much as such details may be too unimportant for records to be maintained since the 1960s.

The conclusion is that there is no definite proof that Narendra Modi did or did not sell tea at Vadnagar station in the 1960s.

Tail pieces:

1) This line is expected to be opened after conversion to broad gauge in 2019 or 2020.

2) No one has proposed changing its name to Modinagar. There is anyway another slightly larger station called Modinagar in UP, between Delhi and Meerut:

Modinagar

This has nothing to do with the PM or Gujarat. It was known as Begamabad until the 1950s until it was renamed. That was because of the industrial township started by Gujar Mal Modi, presumably a Marwari. The present generation would not have heard of him, but they would have heard of his grandson Lalit Modi.