On the Front Foot: Griffith dishes out punishment with old school Mike in mind

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The Independent Online

Up popped, albeit in unfortunate circumstances last week, the wonderful name of Mike Griffith.

He is a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board's disciplinary panel, which had to mete out more punishment to miscreants, in this case Essex and their captain, James Foster. But Griffith is also one of the few people to have been named after a fictional character.

He was given his first name in honour of the great PG Wodehouse, who created Mike Jackson, youngest member of a cricketing family and schoolboy hero of the story Mike. Wodehouse was a huge cricket fan from his schooldays at Dulwich College, and though mentions of the game in his work waned after he went to live in the United States, he continued to sustain a long-distance love affair. Mike first appeared in 1907.

Mike Griffith was born in 1943, the son of Billy Griffith, who played for England, was later secretary of MCC, a fellow Old Alleynian with Wodehouse and a devoted fan of his works. It is important to note that his first name is not a short form – he was called Mike intentionally.

As Griffith, who later added Grenville to his name in further tribute to the author (who was Pelham Grenville), wrote in later life: "Being christened Mike has its drawbacks, especially with solicitors and legal documents when nobody will take my word for it."

Wodehouse At The Wicket, an anthology of the author's writings on cricket, has just been republished, edited by Murray Hedgcock (Arrow £7.99). It contains the story of Mike's great deeds for Wrykyn College in their match against MCC. And it takes us back to a world that Mike Griffith must wish still existed as he sits on the disciplinary panel.

Perhaps he should advise modern players to read stories about his namesake.

Denis sweeps all before him

And so to the winner of the initials contest. After some musing, OTFF decided Ken Fisher caught the tone best, using a great player with three initials, with his entry on Denis (DCS) Compton: Don't Criticise Sweeping. What a shot it was for Compo, and what a reverse-sweeper he might have been too.

Ken also tickled the fancy by recalling the advertisement campaign for Capstan cigarettes (if it is not illegal to do so) featuring famous players.

It would have a caption over a large photo, for instance: "Have a Tyson, Frank Capstan" in one featuring the fast bowler. "At this time," wrote Ken, "Jack Crapp was the captain of Gloucestershire but he was not invited to partake in the campaign."

At headquarters with Kumar

Kumar Sangakkara has been a formidable cricketer for Sri Lanka, spending much of the past five years in the top five of the Test batting rankings. If that was not sufficient to earn his place in posterity, his acclaimed Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's last week will guarantee it.

Cleverly, articulately, passionately, he described the modern history of Sri Lankan cricket and told the administrators to clean up their act. Simply to read it is to be moved.

Sangakkara has much to offer the game when he is a cricketer no more. The mind could not stop itself wandering back 10 years to Kandy in 2001, when he was a confident, brash newcomer determined that neither he nor his countrymen would be browbeaten.

That Second Test against England, like the First, was unsavoury, and he mixed it more than most. Behind the stumps he talked non-stop, when batting he incurred the wrath of England in general and Mike Atherton in particular with his irksome behaviour. He was, in short, an irritating little berk. But what a man he has become and how he showed it on Monday night.

Honours may soon be even

Official requests are now being submitted to make amends for the missing honours. Alan Knott, John Snow, Tony Greig and Mike Denness have been overlooked for gongs when an MBE might have been the least of their rewards for services to cricket.

Those who decree what's what will have a few months to do so before the New Year Honours List is released. We shall be jogging their memory so they do not forget, as so often they have down the years.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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