On the Front Foot: Initial thoughts are to Revive Game Directly – that's RGD (Willis)

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The Independent Online

The arrival of the Sri Lankans has allowed the re-emergence of an old game: the composition of a sentence from cricketers' initials.

Although this country, as is the case with so many games, prompted its birth, it has, as usual, failed to train on. This is mainly because there are simply too few players with sufficient initials.

It all started a century ago when the grossly underrated JWHT (Johnny) Douglas led England to a 4-1 victory in the 1911-12 Ashes series. So miffed were the Aussies at defeat and the Pom captain's measured batting style that they took his four initials and gave him the sobriquet Johnny Won't Hit Today.

All right, it could be said that the Aussies thought of it, but without an Englishman to bait they would never have done so. But only one other England Test player, VPFA (Vernon) Royle fits the four-initial guideline.

Whereas the Sri Lankans are replete with initials, as OTFF reader Chris Sladen has pointed out in urging this column to revive the tradition.

DPMD (Mahela) Jayawardene, for instance, might be Driving, Pulling Mahela Delectable. The left-arm spinner HMRKB (Rangana) Herath could pass as How Many Runs Knocked Back. But UWMBCA (Chanaka) Welagedera, at six initials, presents a formidable challenge.

If he has a particularly potent series with his left-arm seam he could be Universally, We Might Be Chanaka's Asses. If England must enter the fray it will have to be with the three-initial fellows. SCJ Broad is Stuart Can't Joke and IJL Trott perhaps I'm Just Laughing.

Please send entries naming appropriate candidates to the email address printed at the end of this column.

Chalking up a classic

A pal sent details of a copy of a new book about club cricketers last week. As these things go, Not Out First Ball by Roger Morgan-Grenville, a chronicle of the regular misdeeds of the White Hunters cricket club, is funny, accurate and terribly familiar.

Books about playing cricket badly but seriously now form a genre. There are at least two a year, almost all affectionately written and entirely predictable.

An exception to the general rule is by an adroit old writing hand, Stephen Chalke. Now I'm 62 (Fairfield Books, £12) tells the factional story of his captaincy of a village third team in Division Nine of the Wiltshire League. The names have been changed but the chronicle of the summer, the trials of the team and what would be known in Hollywood as the personal backstory are all too real.

The first two qualities would be recognised by all lower-level cricketers and Chalke, interspersing the narrative with some diverting anecdotes, has captured it properly in his understated style. It is a model of its kind, and anybody thinking of writing the uproarious story of their team and its members should read it.

Warne's no knight-watchman

In his newspaper column the other day, marking the end of his career, Shane Warne made a plea to be knighted. Sir Shane, he wrote, had a nice ring to it.

Maybe so, but it shows that Warne's knowledge of leg spin is greater than his grasp of his country's history. Australia stopped handing out gongs when it ended its imperial honours list more than 20 years ago.

There will be no more cricketing knights from that country – unless they move to England.

Shane v Sachin is appealing

The man who will not be Sir Shane was the focus of attention in the Indian Premier League match between his side, Rajasthan Royals, and Mumbai Indians. It pitted the retiring Warne against Sachin Tendulkar.

Twice early on, before Warne entered the fray, Tendulkar was perilously close to being leg before, twice he was reprieved. Surely it cannot have been because it was written in the stars that Warne had to bowl at Tendulkar?

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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