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Cricket and the real origin of Google!
by Venu Palaparthi
May 22, 2007
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's founders, want you to believe that the name of their company is either a misspelling or a play on the word googol - a mathematical term denoting 1 followed by 100 zeros. But I believe that this is just a clever spin (forgive the pun) on a word that has always meant a type of spin delivery in the game of cricket.

In 2006, Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary helpfully added the verb, "google" to mean "the use of Google." But let us not forget that the definitive Oxford English Dictionary had described google as "the act of delivering a googly" as early as 1907.

The Google story

Page and Brin had originally named their search engine 'Backrub.' "We realized BackRub wasn't the world's greatest name," Page recounted in 2003. So he and Brin looked through Web sites and URLs before finally stumbling across a list of very large numbers. The word "googol" was at the top but according to Page, they had an incorrect spelling. And it also helped that the Google.com domain name was still available.

On February 12, 2003, talking about search complexity, Page told students at Stanford that "It turns out that most people misspell some things." He confessed that he also had trouble with spelling. "You end up finding documents with misspelled words, which is not really what you wanted."

The real google

Whatever the reason for Page and Brin deciding on the Google name, at Deamcricket, we consider it our duty to gently educate them that they used a cricket term that predates their use of the name for their amazing search engine.

Yes, google revolutionalized cricket bowling long before it revolutionized the internet. And the term was used widely across USA and overseas.

So what is this original meaning of google, you ask? It is an off-break when bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. This is accomplished by turning the wrist over at the moment of delivery far enough to alter the axis of spin, so that a ball which normally delivered would break from leg, breaks from the off. Such a delivery is also called a googly, a doosra or, in Australia, the wrong 'un.

C'mon Larry and Sergey, you certainly must know what we mean. Or are you all google-eyed?

The first use of google in USA

Now here is a little known fact - the first known googling in international cricket was in USA. The inventor of the googly, Bernard Bosanquet, wrote: "about the year 1897 I was playing a game with a tennis ball, known as `Twisti-Twosti.' The object was to bounce the ball on a table so that your opponent sitting opposite could not catch it. After a little experimenting I managed to pitch the ball which broke in a certain direction; then with more or less the same delivery make the next ball go in the opposite direction!"

"I practised the same thing with a soft ball at `Stump-cricket.' From this I progressed to the cricket ball. I devoted a great deal of time to practisting the googly at the nets, occasionally in unimportant matches."

The first "unimportant" matches happened to be in USA. Even though he did not use the delivery in county cricket until about July, 1900, for Middlesex v. Leicestershire at Lord's, Bosanquet got a chance to try this out on his international tours - these were to USA with P. F. Warner's team in 1898, and with K. S. Ranjitsinhji's team in 1899.

In fact, Bosanquet played in California as part of Lord Hawke's English team captained by Pelham Warner. This English team stopped in San Francisco in 1902 on its way to New Zealand. In his book on American cricket, historian P David Sentance writes that Bosanquet bowled the googly "to great effect in San Francisco" versus California XVIII.

The google bowlers on the Bradman tour of USA - 1932

When the Australian cricket team that included Don Bradman toured USA in 1932, their 'google' bowlers were the focus of media attention wherever they went. Reporters on both sides of the coast filled pages about the 'google' bowling duo of Leslie O'Brien Fleetwood-Smith and Arthur Mailey.

In fact, Fleetwood-Smith deserves credit for popularizing 'google' in USA. Closer to the Google headquarters in the Bay Area, at the Kezar Stadium inside the Golden Gate Park, Fleetwood-Smith took 5 for 12 in the first match and Mailey, his partner in crime, gathered 5 for 40 with his "deceptive and underhanded google" stuff. Fleetwood-Smith took over 150 wickets on this tour.

Fleetwood-Smith was popular with the media for his socializing ways ("he was a talented ladies' man"). Even the legendary Bradman was considered boring in comparison - Bradman being newly married and on his honeymoon tour. Of course, the Don had already developed a reputation for being dour.

According to the noted cricket historian, P David Sentance, there were occasions when "Fleetwood-Smith had five dates a night" on his USA tour. His Australian teammates followed Fleetwood-Smith around since his discarded ladies were more attractive than the girls they were seeing!

Google became the topic of conversation wherever Fleetwood-Smith went. Even before the New York leg of the tour began, John Kieran wrote in the New York Times on July 13, 1932: "In the company of the great Bradman will be Fleetwood-Smith, reputed to be the cleverest google bowler ever seen in action who put out the entire South African eleven twice in Australia last winter.

Kieran warned "A google bowler can be a very annoying person under certain circumstances and it is up to Police Commissioner Mulrooney to decide whether or not a google bowler should be allowed to roam at large in our city."

Even at the Yankees Stadium in New York, in the fifth innings of the famous match that the Aussies attended in the company of Babe Ruth, when Frankie Croesetti drove a home run, both Don and Fleetwood-Smith were quoted by New York Telegraph. "A beauty in the right spot," Don exclaimed! The New York Telegraph quoted Fleetwood-Smith as saying "That was off a google." Perhaps the first time the word was used in the context of baseball. The New York Telegraph added that Fleetwood-Smith was "quite a google thrower himself."

What is the point of this article, you ask?

For starters, Google's founders cannot claim to have invented the word 'google'. That distinction must go to Bernard Bosanquet.

But really, so what if they did not invent it?

While Google has its billions, cricket in USA is a neglected sport. So all we have here is a wishful sidenote. We at dreamcricket.com hope that their invention, the famous search engine, will bring this article on cricket in front of Page and Brin.

Maybe they will google away and figure out that cricket could use their support. Perhaps they will be motivated to support the sport that legions of their own employees love.

If Page and Brin want to help, we have ideas. They can start by contacting me via venu.palaparthi on my gmail account.

If that is too much of a bother, perhaps they could go ahead and build a cricketplex with their spare change. That will certainly go a long way to enhance the quality of the sport in USA. Their inhouse doodler even has an appropriate Google logo ready.

Disclaimer: Google, of course, owns the TM for google - let there be no doubt about that. And let there also be no doubt about the fact that Page and Brin are geniuses who have helped improve search and discovery on the internet. This article is written in the spirit of cricket.

 
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