England July 3, 2010

The mystery of the fluorescent underarms

Can you throw some light on the new design in the England uniform?

2"" Tim Bresnan signals the drinks trolley on to the field using his bright green armpits © Getty Images
For the weary cricket watcher, intervals are a godsend and, being a helpful kind of company, Sky likes to give the viewer a little push snoozewards. When David Gower mumbles the words, ‘special feature’ the eyelids of the nation start to weigh heavily and Wednesday’s mid game siesta featured another visit to Dullsville; this time courtesy of an interview between Nasser Hussain and Andy Flower. The sun was out, the men were old chums; it was cosier than a glass of warm milk before bed.

But this time I was not reaching for my pillow and Chennai Super Kings slumber mask. I was agog, or at least, reasonably awake, because I hoped this would be the moment when I got the answer to one of the most pressing cricket questions of the day. As the Essex twosome droned on about self-belief incubation, skill sets, range-hitting and suchlike, I was hanging on their every word. “Ask the question, ask the question!” I kept shouting at the television. But Nasser did not oblige and so I turn to you, the Cricinfo readers, in search of enlightenment.

Why exactly do the England players sport fluorescent underarms? I won’t accept that these gaudy green ovals have appeared merely at the whim of a fashion designer. Mr Flower looks to me the sort of chap who is a stickler; the cast of man who takes care over arranging his sock drawer; the breed of coach who leaves no stone unmolested in the unending search for the burrowing beetles of excellence. The England players are green under there for a reason. But what is it? I can think of only two possibilities.

1. During the course of a game, a chap can forget himself, run around a little too much and completely overlook the fact that he is perspiring. What if he has to meet the Queen in the lunch interval? That is where the patches come in. Made from perspiration-sensitive material, they turn green on contact with sweat: the sweatier the player, the more vivid the green. Team-mates, noticing this chameleon like colour change, can have a quiet word and the player concerned can slip away to the dressing room for a deodorant break. And if you are using the emergency tactic of applying it without removing your shirt, the day-glow colour helps you to hit the right areas.

2. The bilious green colourings enable the England players to stay safe in the case of two relatively unlikely but potentially dangerous scenarios.

i. In the event of a localised power cut during a day-night game, traffic may become disorientated and end up on the field of play. By raising their arms, the reflective pit-patches will help stray drivers to steer clear of the England outfielders and a large insurance pay out will thus be averted.

ii. If, while on a "no fear" team bonding exercise, the squad should find themselves having to cross a rope bridge at midnight, carrying their kit above their heads, their underarm illuminations will act as a warning sign preventing low flying owls from becoming tangled in Ryan Sidebottom’s hair or mistaking Steven Finn for a poplar tree.

These seem to me to be perfectly plausible, but I accept that they may not represent the whole truth, so I invite the Cricinfo readers to help me solve this conundrum. Any solutions will be gratefully received, although logical, rational or sensible contributions will, as ever, be frowned upon.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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