The strange case of Hardus Viljoen

The South African cricketer had a good Test debut, hitting his first ball for a four and then taking a wicket (of the opposing captain AN Cook) off his first ball. He ended up with a relatively modest return, as you can see from the scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/800465.html

Apparently he is only the second achieve this double on debut. The first was M Henderson of New Zealand, in his county’s first ever Test:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62572.html

That match is more remembered for MJC Allom’s hat-trick (and 4 in 5) on debut. And Henderson never played in a Test again.

Coming back to Hardus Viljoen, he may well avoid Henderson’s fate and play in more Tests. But there is something odd about him.

Those who compile cricketing records like everything to be black and white, with every run scored and ball bowled being accounted for. But what if even a person’s name is uncertain? That happens often enough in parts of South Asia where a person may have a given name, a middle name, a surname and perhaps several other names. Now we have a mystery from South Africa.

Starting with this Wikipedia article:

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

His name is listed as Gerhardus C Viljoen, with Hardus apparently being a contraction or nickname. But what does the C stand for?

The Wikipedia article has links to two of the major databases:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/current/player/375126.html

which gives his full name as GC Viljoen

and:

http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Players/373/373892/373892.html

which states that “GC is his name, not his initials”

Of course, there are a number of people who have initials which do not mean anything-including an US president, no less.

This is the relevant bit about Harry S Truman’s middle name:

“Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman (1851–1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852–1947). His parents chose the name Harry after his mother’s brother, Harrison “Harry” Young (1846–1916). They chose “S” as his middle initial to please both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The “S” did not stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish.

This is perhaps the most famous picture of President Truman, after the 1948 elections:

 

Here are a few more people who have initials which do not stand for anything:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/26920/quick-10-people-fake-middle-initials

Even the fans of MAD magazine would not know Alfred E. Neuman’s middle name.

 

Onwards to the T20 Cricket World Championship

With the qualifying tournament over (uniquely with both the finals and the third-place match washed out) we know which teams will participate in the  T20 World Championship (NOT World Cup) to be held in India in March/April 2016. The 10 Test nations will be joined by Scotland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Oman.

As in 2014, the first round will be played by 8 teams (Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the 6 qualifiers) and the two top teams will join the other 8. There are two groups of 5, and the top 4 teams qualify for the semi-finals.

The winners of the first round need not be taken for granted; in 2014 Zimbabwe did not qualify but the Netherlands did.

A point of interest was this player:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/772407.html

He does not play for the Netherlands as one would expect. His team does not have official T20 status so his matches do not qualify as T20Is. However, he would be the only international cricketer with quadruple repeated initials. He does have a counterpart from first-class cricket:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/10681.html

While in Test cricket there are triple repeated initials in

WW Wade: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/47855.html

WW Whysall: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/22420.html

and

HHH Johnson: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/52200.html

The last player seems to have been unfortunate in playing only three Tests after taking ten wickets on his debut.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICC_World_Twenty20

The “Singh is King” cricket XI

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 (though I am being liberal and taking ODI performance into consideration) 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) Robin Singh

9) Harbhajan Singh

10) L. Amar Singh

11) Bishen Singh Bedi

Reserves: Balwinder Singh Sandhu, 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 while No 9 has two test centuries. One might argue that Robin Singh is not a good enough bowler for Tests, so he could be replaced by Sandhu or RP though this would weaken the batting.

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 Zimbabwe or Bangladesh (or Sri Lanka or New Zealand 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

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:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Long names in different countries

If you have to cover news from India (particularly South India) or Sri Lanka, you may think you have an unfair burden in having to deal with long names. In cricket alone there are long single names (Venkataraghavan, Sivaramakrishnan) and several initials (VVS Laxman, CPS Chauhan, RMH Binny and MSK Prasad). Sri Lanka has some long surnames (where Sinhalese such as Wijegunewardene and Warnakulasariya score over Tamilians like Muralitharan), but they beat India hands down in initials, with the world’s number one UWBMCA Welegedera and number two WPUCJ Vaas. Worse still, this pair has played together in several matches.

But other states of India should not be neglected. Bengal has had CMs like Buddhadev Bhattacharya and other notables like Bibitibhushan Bandopadhaya.

India has had PMs such as Pamolaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao and Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda, much to the dismay of foreign journalists. When Chandrashekhar flashed by as PM, the New York Times correspondent for India made it a point to always mention him as “Mr Chandrashekhar (who uses only one name)”. This became a sort of joke for Indians living in the US, so they referred to the correspondent as “Barbara Crossette (who uses only two names)”.

And if our previous PM used the normal Sikh naming system, he would probably be Manmohan Singh Gah which somehow doesn’t sound as impressive as, say, Prakash Singh Badal or even Harbhajan Singh Plaha or Kapil Dev Nikhanj. But for really long names we have to go a long way-first, to the ex-Soviet country of Georgia (not the place where Jimmy Carter grew peanuts). Here is a list of its Presidents after it became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union: (from Wikipedia):

List of presidents of Georgia

# Name Picture Term Took office Left office Political Party
1 Zviad Gamsakhurdia Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Tbilisi, 1988.jpg 1 14 April 1991 (Appointed) 26 May 1991 (Inaugurated) 6 January 1992 (Deposed) Round Table – Free Georgia
2 Eduard Shevardnadze Eduard shevardnadze.jpg 1 26 November 1995 (Inaugurated) 30 April 2000 Union of Citizens of Georgia
2 30 April 2000 (Inaugurated) 23 November 2003 (Resigned)
Nino Burjanadze (acting) Nino Burjanadze (Tbilisi, December 5, 2003).jpg 23 November 2003 25 January 2004 United National Movement
3 Mikheil Saakashvili Saakashvili76589.jpg 1 25 January 2004 (Inaugurated) 25 November 2007
Nino Burjanadze (acting) Nino Burjanadze (Tbilisi, December 5, 2003).jpg 25 November 2007 20 January 2008
3 Mikheil Saakashvili Saakashvili76589.jpg 2 20 January 2008 (Inaugurated) 17 November 2013
4 Giorgi Margvelashvili Giorgi Margvelashvili, President of Georgia.jpg 1 17 November 2013 (Inaugurated) Incumbent Georgian Dream

As you can see, the average length of their surnames is probably higher than that of any other country. As we will see, one African country does give them some competition. Georgia also had a long-time women’s chess champion named Nona Gabrindashvili. She was succeeded as world champion by another Georgian with the equally challenging name of Maia Chiburdanidze.

The first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia faced a revolt which led to him being deposed and finally to his assassination and suicide or murder. Comedians in the US show “Saturday Night Live” joked that the revolt was linked to the Georgians wanting a leader with a name which could be pronounced more easily.

Arguably, the most powerful Georgian ever was Joseph Stalin or Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin (Russian: Ио́сиф Виссарио́нович Ста́лин, pronounced [ˈjɵsʲɪf vʲɪsɐˈrʲɵnəvʲɪtɕ ˈstalʲɪn]; born Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili, Georgian: იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი, pronounced [iɔsɛb bɛsɑriɔnis dzɛ dʒuɣɑʃvili]; 18 December 1878 – 5 March 1953) who was the leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953. Also note the Georgian script which is quite unlike the Roman or Cyrillic script, though it might remind you of South Indian scripts.

India still has a Stalin who, with a lot of luck, might become Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu one day. He appears to have been born just before the original Stalin passed away.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin (Tamil: மு.க. ஸ்டாலின் Mu.Ka. Sṭāliṉ) (born 1 March 1953) is an Indian politician, better known as M. K. Stalin. He is the third son of famous politician of Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi, and was born to his second wife, Mrs. Dayalu Ammal and was named after Joseph Stalin (who died later that week).

Stalin serves as Youth Wing President of the DMK. On 3 January 2013 M.K. Karunanidhi named him as his heir apparent, thus ending a long time confusion about who would take over the party reins after Karunanidhi’s death.

Georgia, however, faces strong competition from Madagascar, which has sometimes gone under the name of the Malagasy Republic. Here is what their Presidents have to offer:

Presidents of Madagascar (1960–Present)

(Dates in italics indicate de facto continuation of office)

Tenure Portrait Incumbent Affiliation Notes
Malagasy Republic Autonomous
1 May 1959 to 26 June 1960 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F013783-0033, Berlin, Staatsbesuch aus Madagaskar-2.jpg Philibert Tsiranana, President PSD
Malagasy Republic
26 June 1960 to 11 October 1972 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F013783-0033, Berlin, Staatsbesuch aus Madagaskar-2.jpg Philibert Tsiranana, President PSD Resigned and handed power to Military
11 October 1972 to 5 February 1975 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F011092-0001, BPA, Generalstabschef aus Madagaskar.jpg Gabriel Ramanantsoa, Head of State Mil Resigned
5 February 1975 to 11 February 1975 Richard Ratsimandrava, Head of State Mil Assassinated
12 February 1975 to 15 June 1975 Gilles Andriamahazo, Chairman of the National Military Leadership Committee Mil
15 June 1975 to 30 December 1975 Didier Ratsiraka (cropped).jpeg Didier Ratsiraka, Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Council Mil 1st Term
Democratic Republic of Madagascar
30 December 1975 to 4 January 1976 Didier Ratsiraka (cropped).jpeg Didier Ratsiraka, Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Council Mil 1st Term
4 January 1976 to 12 September 1992 Didier Ratsiraka, President FNDR
Republic of Madagascar
12 September 1992 to 27 March 1993 Didier Ratsiraka (cropped).jpeg Didier Ratsiraka, President AREMA 1st Term
27 March 1993 to 5 September 1996 Albert Zafy, President UNDD Resigned
5 September 1996 to 9 February 1997 Norbert Ratsirahonana, Interim President AVI
9 February 1997 to 5 July 2002 Didier Ratsiraka (cropped).jpeg Didier Ratsiraka, President AREMA 2nd Term; from 25 February 2002 in Toamasina
22 February 2002 to 17 March 2009 Appl0405.loselesslycropped.jpg Marc Ravalomanana, President TIM In rebellion to 5 July 2002; deposed in the 2009 crisis
17 March 2009 to 25 January 2014 Andry Rajoelina 6 December 2011.png Andry Rajoelina, President of the High Transitional Authority TGV In rebellion from 7 February 2009
25 January 2014 to Present Hery Rajaonarimampianina 2014.jpg Hery Rajaonarimampianina, President HVM

Note the sad story of Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava who was assassinated just six days after taking over the presidency. But his successors have had even longer surnames. Only Albert Zafy (1993-96) is an outlier. They have French first names because of the colonial influence. There are several famous names in soccer like Didier Six and Didier Deschamps.

Let’s face it, we will have to be satisfied with our moderate contribution in the form of Narendra Damodardas Modi – and that is a triple only because of the Gujarati and Maharashtrian tradition of inserting the father’s name as a middle name. This is not generally followed in Eastern and Northern India, though generic middle names like Kumar and Chandra may be used. My father and his brother had middle names, my generation didn’t.

And I think that North Korea might as well follow a simple rule such as changing the current President’s name to King Kim III. Perhaps he will meet King Charles III or King William V one day-if no one comes from the US to interview him till then. But that trick did work with Ahmed Shah Masoud, one of Osama bin Laden’s rivals who was assassinated two days before 9/11.

(Thanks to Michael Jones, Abhishek Mukherji and others for more ideas. Some of them will appear in a sequel).

Who or what is Amla?

If you ask this question to Wikipedia, you will be given various alternatives such as:

Hashim Amla

or

Amla fruit

or even

Amla station

The first probably needs no introduction.

The second (i.e. the fruit) deserves to be better known. In the West it would be known as the Indian gooseberry, though it has many other names as we will see below. It is a cheap source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. For more about its benefits, see this: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/indian-gooseberry-amla.html and several other articles on the net.

It has many different names:

“Names for this plant in various languages include:

amalika (अमलिक) in Sanskrit
Dhatric (धात्रिक) in Sanskrit, Maithili
āmlā (आमला) in Hindi
āmla (આમળાં) in Gujarati
aavnlaa (amla or awla) in Urdu
āvaḷā (आवळा) (or awla) in Marathi
Bettada nellikaayi ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ನೆಲ್ಲಿಕಾಯಿ (ನೆಲ್ಲಿಕ್ಕಾಯಿ) in Kannada
āvāḷo (आवाळो) in Konkani
Aula (ਔਲਾ) in Punjabi
amloki (আমলকী) in Bengali
amalā (अमला) in Nepali
ambare (अमबरे) in Garo language
amlakhi in Assamese
anlaa (ଅଁଳା) in Oriya
Suaklu in Paite
sunhlu in Mizo
nelli (നെല്ലി) in Malayalam
heikru in Manipuri
halïlaj or ihlïlaj (اهليلج هليلج) in Arabic
sohmylleng in Khasi
rasi usiri ( రాశి ఉసిరి కాయ) (or rasi usirikai ) in Telugu
nellikkai (நெல்லிக்காய்/ ನೆಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಯಿ/ ಗುಡ್ದದ ನೆಲ್ಲಿ) nellikkaai or nellikaayi in Tamil, Kannada and Tulu
nelli (නෙල්ලි) in Sinhala
mak kham bom in Lao
ma kham pom (มะขามป้อม) in Thai
anmole (庵摩勒) in Chinese
Kantout Prei (កន្ទួតព្រៃ) in Khmer
skyu ru ra (སྐྱུ་རུ་ར་) in Tibetan
melaka in Malay, A state in Malaysia, Malacca was named after this tree.”

As you can see, it is important enough to have a state in Malaysia named after it.

And that is not all. Its other uses include: “Popularly used in inks, shampoos and hair oils, the high tannin content of Indian gooseberry fruit serves as a mordant for fixing dyes in fabrics. Amla shampoos and hair oil are traditionally believed to nourish the hair and scalp and prevent premature grey hair.”

However, it is doubtful if our South African friend would feel the need to use Amla hair oil. But a smart marketer like Dabur should have found some way of tying up their hair oil with him, especially when he scored heavily in India in 2010-11. One is reminded of the old joke when the bald man was presented with a comb; he said “I’ll never part with it.”

Finally, the town and railway station called Amla in Madhya Pradesh. It is a junction of some importance on the Delhi-Chennai route, but the town is little more than the station and an army base. Long ago the British decided that this was a sufficiently remote place to store ammunition for the army’s requirements in India and beyond. Thus the unknown place was named Amla after AMmunition LAnd. This might be true, unlike the contrived acronym Military Headquarters Of War for Mhow elsewhere in Madhya Pradesh. This is probably the result of a bored soldier making a joke, since it sounds too contrived and in any case the original place was named Mhow long before the British arrived.

Amla might have lost some of its military importance as several other large ammunition depots came up, notably one at Pulgaon which is close to the centre of the country and a somewhat larger place. In the 1980s, Amla station had a base kitchen which was to provide meals to the numerous trains on the main North-South route. It closed after some years.

Whether Hashim Amla’s surname has anything to do with the fruit or the town is doubtful, as it does not seem to be a common surname in India. Not even in Gujarat where his ancestors came from.

There are a few other stations which cricket fans are fond of photographing. One is quite obvious:

Sachin station

It is a little south of Surat in Gujarat. More recently another small station called Kohli near Nagpur may have started becoming famous. It is doubtful if there is any Punjabi connection here. So far no picture of its signboard can be seen on the net.

But one wonders at the incongruous names elsewhere on the Indian railway system. One could understand some relatively lesser known British officials having a small town or station being named after them. Special cases include Margherita in Assam’s Far East, which gets its name from the person who was Queen of Italy in the 1890s. That particular line was being built by the Assam Railways and Trading Company who had engaged a team of Italian engineers to construct it. Elsewhere in Assam, among names like Lumding, Langting and Haflong we come across the incongruous Kalachand. There must be some story behind this.

You will also find the names of Pataudi and Vizianagaram elsewhere on the railway map. But the places are indeed connected with the Indian cricket captains.