Q&A: Cricket's literary claims . . . and some yellowing pages

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Other than John Major, have any British prime ministers been noted for their interest in sport?

I am surprised that none of your correspondents (Q & A, 26 July) mentioned Sir Winston Churchill's interest in horse racing. Indeed, he kept horses in training as an owner. In fact, Derby Day used to be a bank holiday for the Houses of Parliament, and Disraeli wrote a vivid account of it in his novel, Coningsby. - Len Raine, Manchester.

What is the longest recorded hole-in- one?

The feat reported by Simon Owens (Q & A, 26 July) is not unique. A student friend of mine witnessed a similar incident on the Old Course at St Andrews. An American visitor on the first tee shanked his drive so viciously that he managed to find the cup on the adjacent 18th green. His caddie broke the embarrassed silence that followed by offering his hand to the gentleman, saying, 'Congratulations, sir, course-in- one.' - Dr C A Pollard, Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Why does cricket seem to inspire so much more literature than any other sport?

The operative word in the question is 'seem'. Cricket seems to have more literature because it is written by and for those with more access to the methods of distribution than most other sports. It is a classic split between a sport mostly supported by by the middle and upper classes and those other sports supported by the working class. To support this theory I point to the literature on the subjects of golf and tennis. There is one sport that seems to be classless that has generated a fine body of literature and that is fishing.

One of the ways that the illusion is kept up is through the policy of booksellers, who will carry a large stock of cricket, golf and tennis books, but not Rough Ride, the autobiography of the cyclist Paul Kimmage, which is one of the finest insights into the player's side of sport since Jim Boulton's Ball Four.

Which brings me to the sport that is truly working-class, has a body of literature as large if not larger than cricket, and beats all sports hands down for the quality and quantity of its fiction - baseball. The game of the gods.

I would suggest Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer as the best fan's view ever. To complement this there is Bums by Peter Golenbrook, a less starry-eyed view of Robinson, Reese, Snyder and Co. Late Innings by Roger Angell and Men at Work by George Will are the equal of anything produced by Arlott, Cardus, Swanton et al. Of course, most movies being American there are any number involving baseball. Some good, some bad, but all better than The Final Test.

Cricket fiction seems to consist of de Selingcourt's The Cricket Match, John Parker's The Village Cricket Match and a chapter in England Their England by A G Macdonell. The number of fiction titles inspired by baseball is countless. from my own shelves I suggest: The Thrill of the Grass, Shoeless Joe, The Seventh Babe and The Curious Case of Sid Finch.

I think there are many sports with a literature to equal and even surpass that of cricket. One just has to know where to look for it.

This is not a chauvinistic diatribe by a disgruntled American. I am an English sports fan who has had his life changed by two sports books, Beyond A Boundary by C L R James and The Art of Captaincy by Mike Brearley. - Ron Gould, Crawley, West Sussex.

It would be useful to compare the shelves of cricket and baseball literature to see which is heavier. The qualities shared by the two sports seem especially encouraging to literary effort.

Long hours of play invite meditative observation; the backgrounds of urban and rural players allows for a mix of varied and colourful 'characters'; individual effort coupled and contrasted with teamwork almost compels a casting of 'heroes' and 'villains'; while the role played by sheer chance in determining the outcome of many competitive cricket matches and baseball games calls upon the hand of almighty Fate.

All literature is made of this. As one who plays both sports, I'd say that the ancient Greeks had it almost right: whom the gods would destroy, they first make bat. - Joe Gioia, Brooklyn, New York.

One only has to look at a match in progress to observe the batsmen poking and prodding, the fielders ambling around the boundary, the bowlers using endless time in their run-ups, to realise that it is possible to watch the game, keep score, have a drink, phone the wife (or someone else's]), and write a few chapters in between overs. - Harry Brussalis, Newport, Gwent.

What is the origin of cycling's yellow jersey? And all the other coloured jerseys?

In 1903 Henri Desgrange was the editor of L'Auto, a barely surviving French sports paper. His assistant, Geo Lefevre, suggested a great stage race to boost circulation. Thus the Tour de France was born.

The yellow jersey did not appear until 1919, when it was suggested to Desgrange that a distinctive jersey would enable the public to identify the race leader more easily. L'Auto was printed on yellow paper. Desgrange telegraphed to Paris for a supply of yellow jerseys to be rushed to Grenoble, where the first was presented to the race leader Eugene Christophe, who wore it for the first time on the 11th stage. Other stage race organisers followed suit. When in 1930 Desgrange scrapped trade teams and ran the Tour with national squads, the Tour organisation issued all riders with an anonymous yellow bicycle.

The Grand Prix de la Montagne (for the king of the mountains) was first awarded in 1934, but the polka-dot jersey for the leader of the competition wasn't given until the late 1970s. Screen-printing makes the production of multi-coloured jerseys much easier than the older method of sewing different colours together. The points competition was introduced in 1954, along with the green jersey for the leader.

In the 1980s the distinctive jerseys proliferated to the point of indistinctness: white for the leader of the best young rider competition, red for the intermediate sprints, multi-coloured for the 'Combine'. The latter was obviously designed by a committee. All these have now disappeared, leaving only the green jersey (points), polka- dot (mountains) and yellow (overall leader).

The race leader's yellow jersey isn't yellow in all stage races, although it remains the most popular colour. The leader in the Paris-Nice race wears white, and in the Giro d'Italia pink (the maglia rosa), the same colour as the sponsoring newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport. - Ramin Minovi, Birmingham.

Why do groundsmen continue to mark the bowling crease, even though it has no part in the game of cricket under today's laws?

The questioner is wrong. The bowling crease does still have a part in the game of cricket under today's laws. It marks the furthest point from which the bowler is allowed to deliver the ball.

I suspect that even regular cricketers may be unsure of this law. When an umpire in a match I played in recently no- balled the bowler when he bowled from a couple of yards further back from the bowling crease - 'I have to be able to see your feet when you release the ball,' the umpire was at pains to point out - he caused a good deal of controversy. - David Brewster, Minehead.

Where can I buy a baggy green Australian cricket cap?

We are a a mail order company supplying as part of our service Australian- style baggy caps. - D J V Courtney, 3-D Cricket, The Runnings, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 9NJ.

Why were Derry City allowed to participate in the European Cup as the representatives of the League of Ireland (the Republic's league), whereas any Welsh team that won the FA Cup would be banned by UEFA from participation in the Cup Winners' Cup because they are based outside the country being represented?

Welsh clubs participating in the FA Cup are not allowed to represent the (English) FA in the Cup Winners' Cup (in the unlikely event of any Welsh club winning the FA Cup) not because they are 'based outside the country being represented', but because they also compete in the Welsh FA Cup. Indeed, in 1988-89 Cardiff City played Derry City in the Cup Winners' Cup as representatives of the Welsh FA. They won 4-0.

Derry City, by contrast, compete only in the League and Cup competitions organised by the FAI (the football body in the Republic) and hence there is no conflict of interest with the IFA (the football body in Northern Ireland) who in fact ejected Derry City from their association in 1972. Consequently, Derry City are quite entitled to compete in European competitions as representatives of the League of Ireland and FAI. - Kevin Lynch, Aberdeen.

ANSWERS PLEASE

Why do competition walkers only ever race over long distances, never middle distances or sprints? - John Fitzpatrick, Edinburgh.

What is the difference between an umpire and a referee? - Paul Sammut, Loughton, Essex.

Are any animals raced other than horses, dogs and camels? - Frank Cartwright, Nuneaton.

If an athlete has a splitting headache, is there any medicine he can take that won't contravene the rules on drug-taking? - Chris Michael, Southport.

Why do we have to have the Olympic Games? - Paul Redford, Tonbridge.

Why do Scottish football teams have numerous players whose names begin with 'Mc' or 'Mac', whereas the prefix is a rarity in Scottish rugby teams? - G W Brew, Cambridge.

When did man first play sport? - Nigel Connolly, London NW2.

A team called London took part in football's Fairs Cup in the 1950s. Who played in it? Who chose it? - Graham Wheeler, Northampton.

What is the most beautiful cricket ground in the world? - Brian Teale, Hereford.

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