Boosting role of the banana


Q. Witnessing players at Wimbledon chomping their way through pounds of bananas between games prompts the question: who began this sporting food fad and are there sound nutritional reasons for the players' preference for bananas to other fruit or food. In what other sports (leaving aside lunch and tea breaks in cricket) do the participants eat during the course of play?

A. The sporting fad for bananas was started by sports nutritionists such as myself. The banana is rich in carbohydrate - an important source of energy for athletes and has significantly higher levels than any other fruit. Also, unlike most other forms of high-carbohydrate foods, it contains very little fat but is also high in fibre. The combination of fibre with the banana's three natural sugars - fructose, sucrose and glucose - means it provides a sustained boost to flagging energy levels, thus so many players at Wimbledon were seen eating bananas.

Bananas are also an excellent recovery food for replacing potassium lost in sweating, something most players must have been suffering from at this year's tournament. - Jane Griffin, Consultant Nutritionist to the British Olympic Association, London SW17

Q. Can anybody provide further information about S F Barnes, an England bowler from before the First World War who, according to his Test record, seemed to take wickets when he pleased? I am led to believe he was one of a small handful of players who played for England whilst playing for a minor county (Staffordshire?).

A. Sydney Francis Barnes (1873 -1967) was universally regarded by his contemporaries as the greatest bowler of his generation. It is reported that he served up a mesmerising cocktail of swing and spin.

At the turn of the century Barnes was a professional in the Lancashire league. He always believed his skills should be recognised in financial terms and Rishton awarded him the princely sum of pounds 3 10s a week which included his duties as groundsman. Incentive was added in bonus payments of l0s 6d for six wickets in a match and 7s 6d for scoring 50.

His reputation spread and in 1901 Barnes was invited for a net at Old Trafford by the England captain, A C MacLaren. On the strength of this one session, Barnes earned a berth on the ship which took England to Australia for the 1901-02 series.

Anecdotal evidence reports Barnes was difficult to deal with in the field if he was not at the centre of the action. Neville Cardus described him as "mysteriously aloof" and put his absence from the England team between 1902 and 1907 down to the fact that he "preferred the reward and comparative indolence of Saturday league matches to the daily toil of the county tourney".

The Staffordshire connection is correct. Barnes was born in the county and died there on Boxing Day 1967. In 1909 he played three home Tests against Australia. This was the same season in which, when playing for Staffordshire v Cheshire, he took 14 wickets for 13 runs (a well-earned guinea?).

His final statistics record that in his 23,509.3 overs he took 6,229 wickets for 51,890 runs, a career average of 8.33. - D T Balcombe, Northwood

Q Why, in the draws for the Wimbledon singles, are the seeds allocated different places in the men's and women's competitions? And why, in neither draw, are the seeds not "planted" in the normal way, i.e. 1, 8, 5, 4, 3, 6, 7, 2? At Wimbledon the men's No 1 is seeded to meet the No 3 in the semi-final, while the women's No 1 is seeded to meet the No 4.

A. I am glad someone (greetings, D R Bell of London SW18) has pointed out that Wimbledon, for years now, has not drawn up proper seeding charts. Who knows where they went wrong, or why? The correct system follows the simplest, most symmetrical and logical of arithmetical reasoning. It is not a matter of choice or whim; there is only one right way to do it (cf. the World snooker championship, any year you like, at the Crucible). Thus Sampras and Becker ought not to have met in this year's final; for Nos 2 and 3 should always be seeded to meet in the semi-final in the bottom half of the draw.

Maybe Agassi (seeded 1) and Ivanisevic (4), who should have been seeded to meet in the top-half semi-final, ought to sue the All England Club, seeking at least exemplary damages. Think about it - one of them would have been a finalist. - Jack Bolton, Winfarthing, Norfolk


Q. Can anyone tell me when the custom of presenting a small bouquet of flowers to the winners at major athletic events began? And why do many competitors throw the bouquet almost immediately to the spectators? - Peter Marsh, Nottingham

Q. Has any team ever won a Test match by an innings with a score lower than the 300 runs made by West Indies in the recent international against England? - Mark Jenkins, Enfield

Q. Other than Italy is there a country whose national football strip has a primary colour which is not included in its national flag? - Keith Jones, Cambridge

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

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