My first Ashes, the summer of 1985 gave me unrealistic expectations of following England in Test Cricket. I thought my country were world beaters, set for total domination and ready to sweep all before them. A tour of West Indies and the subsequent year’s home series’ defeats to both India and New Zealand soon eradicated that belief and I was forced to dig in for 35 years of varying ups and downs.
One abiding memory from that glorious summer is the makeup of the team and moreover the excitement of seeing all of the middle initials. Much like finding out your Maths teacher was called Stuart after overhearing your English teacher (Adrian) calling him by his Christian name in front of a bewildered class the thrill of finding out Sir Ian Botham’s middle name is Terence was unparalled in my world at the time!
Ask me what I had for tea last night and I’m at a total loss yet ask me for the England XI in that series and I’m your man. Not only could I give you a solid eleven from the end of that series but at the drop of a hat I could also give you their middle initials without thinking. GA Gooch, RT Robinson, DI Gower, MW Gatting, AJ Lamb, IT Botham, PR Downton, JE Emburey, PH Edmonds, RM Ellison and even LB Taylor! The only resistance to this irresistible force came in the shape of the Australian captain, one AR Border.
As well as that being down to the fantastic memory and recall skills of children it also speaks volumes about how names are and were displayed on television. The BBC always used to give every player the respect of their full title. Even the commentators were introduced in that manner, “and here comes AR Lewis” Richie would whisper into the mic.
In the halcyon days of 1985, we were awash with initials, the newspapers would display them in scorecards and the fantastic Wisden and Playfair yearbooks would follow suit and every good cricket fan knew their NV Radfords, DR Pringles and EE Hemmings’.
Swiftly, innovation and new exciting ways to follow the cricket scores came in. No longer did we have to wait 24 hrs for the paper to drop through our letterbox to see how many runs BR Hardie had scored or how many wickets RJ Hadlee had claimed the previous day.
Ceefax had arrived in our homes and it could instantly (well, only about half an hour behind providing everything was working as it should!) let you know how the County Championship games of the day were progressing. However, in their haste to give you that information they would skimp on a vital element of the presentation, the much beloved middle initial(s).
Whilst the papers and yearbooks still played ball the television coverage moved to Channel 4 and Sky and they had no inclination to let you know that Paul Collingwood’s middle name was David or KP was actually KPP and is, quite brilliantly, named Kevin Peter Pietersen. Who knew?!
I’m obviously being flippant, and my tongue is firmly in cheek, but it does point to a changing world and the developing coverage of cricket. It’s validating that excellent sites like ESPN Cricinfo still give the players their full billing, but it seems that it is a formality that no longer sits well in 2020.
Everyone is in a rush to know everything immediately, all style and no substance, fur coat and no knickers. Sadly, no-one deems knowing Joe Root’s middle name as an essential part of their cricketing banquet. Maybe it’s just me and no one actually cares.
It’s Edward by the way.
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