A field day for the Olympic Cricket XI

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The Independent Online
IT IS impossible to beat the proceedings which have just begun in Atlanta so we may as well join them. Today, therefore, it is time to announce the composition of the Olympic Cricket XI.

While the team will be chosen every four years no changes are envisaged in the foreseeable future. This is probably because of the strict criteria which govern selection procedures. The only players who can be considered are those who have played first-class cricket and taken part in the Olympic Games. It is a tough dual qualification which may never be fulfilled again.

The selectors do not exactly have abundant riches at their disposal but are proud to be able to name a team which consists of five gold, two silver and two bronze medallists, a fourth place and a seventh place. It embraces seven Olympic sports, some of them no longer on the programme. Eight of the team played county cricket, two won blues at Oxford and the other squeezed in because it was deemed useful to have a real tennis semi- finalist in the side who went on to become Chief Justice of Burma, was awarded a knighthood and in his day was a splendid fielder.

And, so, to the side in batting order with teams played for, Olympic year and sport, and colour of medal, if any:

Michael Walford (Oxford Univ and Somerset, hockey 1948, silver)

Arthur Knight (Hampshire, football 1912, gold)

Cyril Wilkinson (Surrey, hockey 1920, gold)

Henry Brougham (Oxford, real tennis 1908 bronze)

Johnny Douglas, capt (Essex and England, boxing 1908, gold)

John Crockett (Oxford, hockey 1952 bronze)

Eric Crockford (Warwicks, hockey 1920, gold)

Reginald Pridmore (Warwicks, hockey 1908, gold)

Sir Arthur Page (Oxford and MCC, real tennis 1908, fourth)

Alistair McCorquodale (Middlesex, athletics 1948, silver)

David Acfield (Essex, fencing 1968 and 1972, seventh).

The most recent and perhaps the final addition to the XI is David Acfield, the former Essex off-spinner, who remembers having a high old time in Mexico as part of the British sabre team in Mexico in 1968. Having helped the four-man team to respectability he spent most of the Games afterwards in the athletics stadium. "I wasn't a regular member of the Essex side then so it was reasonably easy to fit in but it was much harder the next time," he said. "Perhaps I should have given up because all the time I was an amateur fencer for Britain I couldn't be paid for playing for cricket. I don't think it could be done today."

Acfield and the Olympic XIcaptain are the only members of the team who made a career out of cricket. J W H T Douglas, who led England 23 times, won the middleweight title in 1908 and will be a vital all-round component of this team. His nickname, given him by the Australians, referred, incidentally, to his stolid batting, not his boxing. It derived from his initials and was "Johnny Won't Hit Today".

Of the others, Walford scored 5,000 runs playing for Somerset, mostly in August when teaching duties allowed, Wilkinson was captain of Surrey for three seasons. McCorquodale, a Scottish fast bowler who played three times for Middlesex in 1951, had only been running for a year when he was fourth in the 1948 100m and won silver in the relay.

As for Acfield, he no longer uses a sabre but is chairman of the working party investigating future methods of selecting the England cricket team. He hopes to complete the report in a fortnight. This might involve not so much fencing as hedging but if his recommendations are ever implemented by the TCCB he will certainly deserve a medal.

LANCASHIRE became only the third team in Benson and Hedges Cup final history to complete their innings without recording a leg bye. The other two were both Somerset, in 1981 and 1982. Mind-numbing not to mention meaningless statistic this may be but the average of leg byes in the other 47 innings in the final is eight. The shortage of them had no effect on either Somerset or Lancashire. They won.

AFTER two Tests it has been decreed in some quarters that Min Patel isn't up to Test cricket and Phil Tufnell is the man. Figures, of course, can be distorted to reveal almost what you want but while Tufnell's Championship bowling average this season is superior (25.18 compared to 30.18) there is a difference of only two balls in the pair's strike rate. Min might also care to compare his figures from his first two Tests with those of his Kent left-arm predecessor, Derek Underwood. Patel has one wicket for 180, Underwood had one for 172 - and went on to take 297 Test wickets.

JUST out: the inaugural edition of the European Cricket Federation Handbook which reveals the passion for the game on the Continent. England ought to be worried. "Italy," we are informed, "have always had a virulent policy of encouraging home-grown talent." Further bad news from Italy is that for the first time there are more male than female umpires.

One-man stand

DEREK CROOKES, who scored the fastest century of the season for the South Africa A side against Glamorgan last Wednesday, went in with the tourists at 41 for four. This made his century off 77 balls the more remarkable but he said: "I didn't think there was any point in hanging about and I just played my normal game. I like to be positive." Crookes, 27, was helping to run his father's pig farm in Natal until recently. "I'll go back one day but I've still got five or 10 years left in the game and I'm going to play cricket full-time," he said.