SATURDAY’S CHILD – The China Syndrome
The China Syndrome is the perhaps exaggerated idea that the meltdown of a nuclear power plant can cause reactor core products to flow downwards, melting the Earth’s crust and reaching as far as China or wherever the other side of the earth happens to be. There was a movie based on the concept that won several awards. Then there was the cricket match – Barbados versus Guyana at the Queen’s Park Oval on Saturday, July 31, 2010.The Oval incident saw the meltdown of Barbados and the triumph of Guyana powered by an atom bomb of Chinese descent named Jonathan Foo. The derailment of the Barbadian cricket team on its way to what seemed a certain victory, while more reminiscent of The Cassandra Crossing than The China Syndrome, was Murder By, instead of On, the Orient Express. Foo scored 42 runs from 17 balls to win the match for Guyana. The Barbadian team looked like they wanted to sink deep into the earth – all the way to China, perhaps.Foo follows in the footsteps of a Trinidad cricketer of Chinese descent, Ellis “Puss” Achong, after whom a distinctive ball or style of bowling – the “chinaman” – is named. A “chinaman” is defined as “a left-arm unorthodox spin delivery”. The background to the “chinaman” is that a left-handed spin bowler using finger spin bowls a leg-break and that is the “orthodox” way. The “chinaman” bowler uses his wrist and flicks the ball out of it. This is unorthodox as the ball moves from left to right – an “off-break” instead of a “leg-break”. If this is not confusing enough, the “orthodox” bowler can make a slight variation to his action, sometimes imperceptible to the batsman, and get an “off-break” which is a “doosra” and not a “chinaman”. The unorthodox bowler can also vary his action and instead of a “chinaman” he can bowl a “googly” or leg-break. If you find the jargon difficult, you’re in good company. One thousand translators were asked what they considered the toughest words to translate.The “chinaman” style did not originate with Achong. According to ESPN’s Cricinfo.com, “Charlie ‘Buck’ Llewellyn, a South African all-rounder who played circa the end of the 19th century, laid claim to inventing the delivery.” Wikipedia and other sources recount the day the “chinaman” was christened: “He (Achong) was mainly a bowler. His stock ball was left-arm orthodox spin (left arm finger spin), but one of his variations was unorthodox left-arm spin. After bowling this variation to have Walter Robins stumped at Old Trafford in 1933, it is reputed that Robins said to the umpire Joe Hardstaff Sr., “fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman”. The irrepressible Learie Constantine, never at a loss for words, is said to have replied: “Do you mean the bowler or the ball?” Since then, and as far as I know, the only other Trinidadian of Chinese descent who came close to making the national team was Henry “Jap” Lum Kin. He was a brilliant right-handed, wicket-keeper/batsman who loved to attack the bowling. However, he came from the deep south and had more talent than opportunity. As a natural sportsman, “Jap” could have done everything except bowl a chinaman, something that only left-handers can do. I suppose “Jap” could have bowled out his younger brother (who also played cricket) but that wouldn’t have counted.Interestingly, a few non-Chinamen have developed considerable expertise in this most difficult of balls. The great Garry Sobers included both the chinaman and googly in his armoury. He sometimes opened the bowling with his fast-medium swing, switching later to orthodox or unorthodox depending on his reading of what was required. But back to Jonathan Foo. When he was blasting his runs, the disc jockey at the Queen’s Park Oval, where the game was played, worked up the crowd, already wide awake from Foo’s power hitting, with the 1974 Carl Douglas hit, Kung Fu Fighting. It seems most appropriate, especially the “Those cats were fast as lightning/In fact it was a little bit frightening/But they fought with expert timing”. Or even: “He said here comes the big boss, let’s get it on/We took a bow and made a stand, started swinging with the hand/The sudden motion made me skip now we’re into a brand new trip”. Certainly Guyana is on a brand new trip to the 2010 Champions League T20 in South Africa and if Foo continues to hit like he did in the West Indies T20 tournament, he would have progressed beyond the cricket academy in Barbados and would be ready to join Kung Fu Panda in the “Academy of Awesomeness”. Like Kieron Pollard, Foo can also make a lot of money if he continues to perform as brilliantly as he did. I am sure, too, he will hang on to his wealth and not succumb to the observation that “A Foo and his money are soon parted”.
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that only in the West Indies would you find someone named Dave Mohammed bowling a Chinaman to a batsman named Jonathan Foo. It is enough to make Edwin Carrington resign.