Derivation of Silly Mid Off

It is well known that the breaking of the non striker’s stumps by the bowler prior to delivering the ball is called a “Mankad” after Vinoo Mankad, the Indian bowler who dismissed the Australian batsman Bill Brown in this manner in 1947.

Less well known is the story of the personal name behind two of the fielding positions on the cricket field. In 1840 Fyodor Zilimidov, the younger son of a prominent Russian noble, was studying at Cambridge University in England. He was one of the first Russians to do so.

Two weeks into his first term at Cambridge Zilimidov was induced to play in a game of cricket for his Cambridge college despite never having previously seen the game played. The other students suggested, for a spot of amusement, that he stand only five feet from the batter; a position in which no-one had ever stood previously for the very sensible reason that they were concerned for their own safety.

Zilimidov, knowing nothing of cricket, had no fear of being struck a dangerous blow. Unbelievably, he took an easy catch in the first over he was stationed there when the batsman nicked a ball onto his kneecap which ballooned up for an easy catch to Zilimidov. He took two further catches in the next five overs before a big hitting batsman prompted the Cambridge captain to remove him from the danger zone. From that time forward the Cambridge players started referring to the close in fielding position as Zilimidov, which was gradually back formed into standard English as Silly Mid Off. The position of Silly Mid On developed later and was analogised from Silly Mid Off.

Zilimidov became an enthusiastic if erratic practitioner of the new style of medium fast over arm bowling. He was an admirer of the bowling style of Harry Flashman which he sought to imitate. When he returned to Russia he constructed a cricket pitch at his Crimean estate and there was a late C19 photo of Tsar Nicholas watching a game of cricket being played on the Zilimidov estate which was seem in one of the anterooms to Nicholas’ office by the junior British diplomat, Sir Wilfred Carrington.

These events are described in Flashman at the Charge, Sir Harry Flashman’s memoirs of the Crimean War. Sir Harry recounts that Fyodor Zilimidov, by then a Russian army commander, arranged for a reduction of the watch and extra rations of vodka for the remaining prison guards when he was imprisoned at Simferopol which enabled him to effect his escape.



About Greg

Middle aged male, resident at the finest of all latitudes, 37. Reputedly an indoor cricketer.
This entry was posted in Alt History, Nineteenth Century, Sportz. Bookmark the permalink.

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