April 30, 2012

How do you spell that?

Players who troubled the scorers with their long names

A hard-hitting batsman who played nine first-class matches for Fiji between 1947 and 1954, scoring two centuries, his full name was Ilikena Lasarusa Talebulamainavaleniveivakabulaimainakulalakebalau - which apparently means "returned alive from Nankula hospital at Lakemba island in the Lau group". Scorers of the day tended to economise on ink by referring to him as "IL Bula".

Chaminda Vaas
He's usually the first port of call when long names are talked about: and he's one of the few international cricketers with more initials (five) than letters in his surname (four). Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas was also a fine bowler, taking 761 international wickets in all - exactly 400 of them in ODIs - with his waspish left-arm seam and swing.

He was a wily offspinner (and sometime captain) who took 156 Test wickets for India, then a tour manager, match referee, and finally a long-serving umpire. And before one Test match in Adelaide, the Australian writer Gideon Haigh approached him diffidently and asked, "Excuse me, but aren't you Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan?" before returning to the press box and saying "I've always wanted to say that."

EB Dwyer
Born in Sydney, Dwyer came to England in 1904 and soon qualified for Sussex. He was rather inconsistent but had some great days: in 1906 he took 9 for 35 against Derbyshire, and 16 wickets in the match against Nottinghamshire. But there was more to Dwyer than the "EB" that usually preceded his surname on scorecards: his full moniker was John Elicius Benedict Bernard Placid Quirk Carrington Dwyer, and he was descended from one of the most famous leaders of the Irish insurrection of 1798.

Chanaka Welegedara
Scorers hoping for a bit of respite when WPUJC Vaas finally came to the end of a long international career were sent scurrying back to the pen shop when one of his replacements as the left-arm opening bowler had even more initials: Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Asanga Welegedara made his Test debut against England in Galle in December 2007, and though not an automatic selection, he has now taken nearly 50 wickets.

Kapila Wijegunawardene
Just about the most remarkable aspect of this Sri Lankan medium-pacer was his long name. Tony Lewis remembered, at the height of the euphoria after England's series-squaring victory over West Indies at The Oval in 1991, spotting a worried fellow commentator putting in a bit of revision for the upcoming one-off Test against Sri Lanka: Ray Illingworth was concentrating hard, brow furrowed, repeating "Wije-guna-wardene" like a mantra.

Ross Taylor
The current Test captain Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor is the first New Zealand international player to admit to four forenames, most of which stem from his Samoan heritage. But we think an honourable mention should also go to Heath Davis, the fast bowler who played five Tests in the 1990s: his middle name was "Te-Ihi-O-Te-Rangi", a Maori phrase meaning "with strength derived from Heaven".

Henry Leveson Gower
The Surrey (and England) captain owed his nickname, "Shrimp", to his short stature, but he made up for that with a long name - Henry Dudley Gresham Leveson Gower (no hyphen, and pronounced "loo-son gore"). In 1953 he was knighted for services to cricket, which added a "Sir" to the array. The recent biography of Jack Hobbs reveals that Leveson Gower once bit the arm of the Governor of British Guiana during an official banquet on a cricket tour, in order to win a bet.

Prince Christian Victor
Queen Victoria's grandson's full name (his mother was Princess Helena, Victoria's third daughter) was Prince Victor Albert Ludwig Ernest Anton Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. A keen cricketer, Prince Christian played a first-class match for I Zingari against the Gentlemen of England in Scarborough in 1887, making 35 (against a bowling attack including the England captains WG Grace and Drewy Stoddart) and 0. The only member of the Royal Family ever to play first-class cricket, he also scored 55 for the Green Jackets against the Household Brigade in a game in 1898 - two years before his death, at 33, after falling ill with enteric fever while serving in the Boer War.

Faoud Bacchus
A neat right-hander who once scored 250 in a Test against India - in Kanpur in 1978-79 - Sheik Faoud Ahamul Fasiel Bacchus is one of only two West Indian Test players who admit to having four forenames (Easton McMorris was the other). There was a rumour that Bacchus, who later lived in the United States and played for their national team, actually had several more forenames but agreed to stick to four in scorebooks... but that has never been confirmed.

Rajitha Amunugama
He never quite made it to Sri Lanka's Test side, possibly because of ICC restrictions on the number of forenames: a useful medium-pacer for the Tamil Union club in Colombo, he had ten in all: Amunugama Rajapakse Rajakaruna Abeykoon Panditha Wasalamudiyanse Ralahamilage Rajitha Krishantha Bandara Amunugama. The scorers probably cursed every one when he took 8 for 60 - and 12 wickets in the match - against Sebastianites in December 1990.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.