Home / Mint-lounge / Mint-on-sunday /  Oktobertest: A tough quiz about sports

And for a change, today’s column is a quiz about sports. Test your knowledge about sports that you may not be so familiar with, or maybe even that you are familiar with. Answers below the questions, but try to answer before looking at them.

1. Eight Men Out is a film about the 1919 baseball World Series, played between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. Eight players on the White Sox team were accused of conspiring to purposely lose games for money. What was this scandal popularly called?

2. Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, was appointed India’s Test cricket captain when the then skipper, Nari Contractor, was seriously injured during a match in 1962. Pataudi is still the youngest man to lead India in Test cricket. Who was the youngest before him?

3. In the 1986 football World Cup, Argentina took on England in a quarter-final game. That match is famous for two of the most famous goals in the history of football. Both were given names. What were those names and who scored the goals?

4. Who won the women’s 400m hurdles event at the 1980 Moscow Olympics?

5. Every sport has its own distinctive terminology and lingo: “short leg" in cricket, “fourth and inches" in American football, “deuce" in tennis. So, in squash, you can “boast", but not really about how great your last victory was. What is this “boast"?

6. For that matter, what does “fourth and inches" mean anyway in American football, and possibly elsewhere?

7. Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn", is considered one of the greatest distance runners of all time. At the 1924 Paris Olympics, he became the first athlete ever to win five gold medals in a single Games—in two cross-country races, 5,000m, 3,000m and 1,500m. (In fact, he famously won the 5,000m less than two hours after the 1,500m race). He won nine Olympic golds in all. At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, he had planned to run a particular race for the first time ever. He was still such a dominant runner that he was widely expected to win it, and even in a world record time. But just before the Games began, he was told he would not be allowed to run it. What was this race and why was he not allowed to run?

8. At the 1952 Olympics, another great distance runner, Emil Zatopek from Czechoslovakia, won three gold medals—5,000m, 10,000m and the marathon. (Amazingly, that was his first ever marathon). Who lit the Olympic flame at those Games?

9. Just before the men’s singles final at Wimbledon in 1996 began, as the two finalists Malivai Washington and Richard Krajicek were posing for photographs at the net, something happened that made them both break into big smiles. Perhaps only half-jokingly, Washington later said about this incident that: “I got flustered and three sets later, I was gone". He was indeed: Krajicek won easily 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. But what happened before the match began?

10. A rugby World Cup final is watched by the host country’s president, who also hands over the trophy when they win the match and the Cup. This is often thought of as a seminal moment for the country because it embodied its hope and aspirations after many tragic decades. What is name of the film that told this story?

11. True or False: The phrase “Miracle on Ice" refers to the famous ice hockey final of the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, in which a team of American amateur and college players defeated a Soviet Union team made up mainly of professionals, 4-3.

12. In 1997, world chess champion Garry Kasparov played a six-game rematch against an opponent he had beaten in a similar six-game match the previous year. Kasparov won the first game of the 1997 series, but his opponent’s final move so baffled him that he suggested it was due to “superior intelligence". He went on to lose the second game and the match itself. Who was this opponent and why is this 1997 match so famous?

13. A famous world record was set in 1968. It was so far ahead of the previous record that many people predicted it would itself remain unbroken for at least 50 years. But in 1991, 23 years later, it was indeed broken. Still, in the 25 years since, not only has nobody beaten that 1991 world record, nobody has beaten the 1968 mark either. What are we talking about?

14. What is the origin of the name “basketball"?

15. This game is commonly thought to have been invented in Thanjavur in 1856. It is played all over India but almost nowhere else in the world. It is usually played between two teams of five players each, who use a ball made of yellow wool. What game are we talking of?

16. Who wrote these words? “[I] venture to suggest that agriculture, the inherited occupation of... the human race, is better sport than football, cricket and all other games put together."


1. The Black Sox Scandal. Named thus, of course, because the players concerned played for the White Sox.

2. Nari Contractor himself, 26 years old when he was appointed captain against Pakistan in 1960-61.

3. The “Hand of God" goal and the “Goal of the Century". Both were scored by Diego Maradona. In the first, he actually used his hand to push the ball into the net; the referee claimed he had not seen this happen. In the second, Maradona dribbled past four English players and the goalkeeper before firing the ball into the net. It is regularly called the finest individual goal in football history.

4. Nobody. Because there was no such event. The 400m hurdles for women was first contested at the Olympics in 1984, in Los Angeles. This is the event in which India’s own P.T. Usha came agonizingly close to winning a bronze medal.

5. A boast in squash is a shot that hits either the wall at the back or a side wall before it hits the front wall. Most of the time, it’s off the side wall. It can be played defensively or aggressively.

6. The American brand of football proceeds as a series of “downs": in effect, you have four chances (called downs) to push the ball 10 (or more) yards up the field. If you do make the 10 yards, you get another four downs to progress another 10 (or more) yards. So, if you have consumed three downs to move the ball most—but not all—of those 10 yards, you might say you are in a “fourth and inches" situation. The phrase has now entered the popular lexicon, used to suggest that you are close to something—winning a prize, making a major decision, etc—but not quite there.

7. The marathon. After his gold medals, Nurmi was a global star, and organizers of track events around the world would invite him to participate. The International Association of Athletics Federations decided that this made him a professional, and thus ineligible to run in the Olympics, which were supposed to be for amateurs only.

8. The 1952 Games were in Helsinki, Finland. It was Nurmi who lit the flame.

9. Melissa Johnson, a 23-year-old graduate in design, streaked across the court wearing nothing but an apron.

10. Invictus: about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 rugby World Cup that was held in South Africa just a year after the dismantling of apartheid. South Africa beat a heavily favoured New Zealand team in the final. The film starred Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

11. False. It was in effect a semi-final (actually the penultimate medal-round match for both teams). The US went on to defeat Finland in their last match, to win the gold medal.

12. Deep Blue, an IBM supercomputer programmed to play chess. This match was the first time a computer beat the world chess champion in a tournament-style match.

13. Bob Beamon’s incredible long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics: 8.90m, 55cm better than the existing record. In 1991, Mike Powell soared to 8.95m in Tokyo. No other long jumper has ever beaten Beamon’s mark.

14. In 1891, Dr James Naismith invented the game as one his physical education students at a school in Massachusetts could play indoors. He drafted 13 rules for the game and, to serve as “goals" 10 feet above the ground, nailed peach baskets to the walls. Thus “basketball".

15. Ball badminton.

16. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In 1910, a reader asked why there was no news about sports in the newspaper he founded in South Africa, Indian Opinion. Gandhi replied that the paper really aimed to address the concerns of Indians in that country, though he was open to covering sports too.

But he went on: “But we ask our young friends whether sport should occupy so much of our time and attention as it does now. Indeed, those Indians who know what is going on around them, cannot afford to be in a sporting mood. Our forefathers did wonderfully well without the fashionable sport of today. Sport indulged in for the sake of developing the body is of some use. But we venture to suggest that agriculture, the inherited occupation of Indians—indeed of the human race—is better sport than football, cricket and all other games put together." (Thanks to Ramachandra Guha for telling this story in his article in The Telegraph last year, “Naming the Great Game".).

Once a computer scientist, Dilip D’Souza now lives in Mumbai and writes for his dinners. His latest book is Final Test: Exit Sachin Tendulkar.

His Twitter handle is @DeathEndsFun

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