Top row, left to right: Michael DiVenuto, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Ryan ten Doeschate.  Bottom row, left to right: C B Van Ryneveld, Con de Lange, Oscar Da Costa, Garth Le Roux, Vincent van der Bijl.
Top, left to right: Michael DiVenuto, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Ryan ten Doeschate
Bottom, left to right: Clive Van Ryneveld, Con de Wet de Lange, Oscar Da Costa, Garth Le Roux, Vintcent van der Bijl © Getty Images

Let me start by explaining infixes (not ‘infices’). The Dutch, smart as they are, have an ominous-sounding name for this: tussenvoegsel. The word literally translates to ‘insertion’. However, tussenvoegsel sounds so outrageously imposing that you do not really feel like using the English version, though the translation may give you an idea of what it means: infixes are those cute-looking words like ‘van’ that stand smugly between first names and surnames. The word ‘van’ translates to ‘from’. This implies that Vincent van Gogh hailed from a place called Gogh (it is not very clear where Gogh is). ‘Da’ and ‘di’ mean the same in Italian, which explains Leonardo da Vinci; there is indeed a Vinci in Tuscany.

Infixes are different from patronymics, which are appended to names of respective fathers. For example, O’Donnell, Richardson, Ivanovich, and McDermott are (ought to be, in other words) sons of Donnell, Richard, Ivan, and Dermott respectively.

Before making an XI, let us put a condition: we will include only one cricketer per infix. That will probably mean leaving out Aravinda de Silva in favour of AB de Villiers, but we are not really left with much option.

1. Michael di Venuto

All 9 of di Venuto’s ODIs came in 1997, in an era when Australia became the first team to experiment with separate teams for Tests and ODIs. He had to fill the big shoes of Mark Taylor. He top-scored in one of them with 89 and got 77 in another, adding 156 with Mark Waugh for the opening stand. At First-Class level he averaged 46.

Di Venuto returned to his roots, playing for Italy in the 2012 World T20 Qualifier. His elder brother Peter had also played for Italy, in the 2000 European Championship.

Do not take the di Venutos lightly. They date back to at least the 1200, when they moved to Florence.

2. AB de Villiers (wk)

It is a relatively lesser-known fact that ‘ABD’ has opened batting for South Africa 80 times, including 35 times in Test cricket. Obviously, he does not need any introduction, given that he has kept out Aravinda. Unfortunately, he will also have to keep wickets, since we cannot pick Quinton de Kock anymore.

Incidentally, there are too many places called Villiers to list. Most of them are in France.

3. Faf du Plessis

Following AB in the line-up will be Francois du Plessis, who leads South Africa (somewhat interestingly) in Tests and T20Is but not in ODIs, where AB is their captain. A man who can bat at any gear, an outrageous fielder, and a leg-spinner good enough to take five-fors in consecutive T20s, Faf walks into the side.

Plessis, for the inquisitive, is Old French for “a fence made of interwoven branches”. In essence, du Plessis is the same surname as Homer Plessy (of the famous Plessy vs Ferguson case of 1954).

Faf could also have led the side, but we have a better candidate.

4. Ryan ten Doeschate

Many consider ‘Tendo’ as the greatest cricketer from an Associate Nation. They cannot be blamed. Though he has mostly played against Associate Nations, a batting average of 67 and a bowling average of 24 are astonishing numbers in any format of cricket, let alone ODIs.

In First-Class cricket, too, he has 49 with bat and 34 with his medium-fast bowling, and has become quite a sensation across all franchise-based T20 leagues across the world.

5. Clive van Ryneveld

Van Ryneveld (‘veld’ translates to ‘field’) was one of the many world-class all-rounders in the history of South Africa. He played 19 Tests, leading in 8 of them, including the famous 1956-57 home series against England. England were leading the series 2-0 after 3 Tests, but South Africa came back to level the series.

He was an excellent stroke-player and bowled decent leg-breaks (probably better than Faf), and was a fielder so outstanding that he could put some of the present-day men to fame. It does not end there, for he also played rugby for England (as a three-quarter). And in case the team faces legal issues, here is your barrister, too.

6. Con de Wet de Lange (c)

An accurate left-arm spinner and a useful batsman, de Wet de Lange has played for almost all South African sides as well as Northamptonshire — and eventually, international cricket for Scotland.

The name itself is curious, for ‘wet’ translates to ‘law’ and ‘lange’ to ‘tall’. We are probably looking at a member from a family whose lineage has its roots in a tall lawyer from a bygone era.

Why is he the captain? Because he has two infixes! I thought that was obvious…

7. Oscar da Costa

Da Costa never had great numbers (19 with bat and 58 with ball in Test cricket, 29 and 40 in First-Class), but he was electric on the field. In England in 1933 he did a decent job, with 1,046 runs at 27 and 31 wickets at 34, but that was about it.

As for the etymology, ‘costa’ is Portuguese for ‘coast’, so the Jamaican must have has his roots in a family that came from somewhere on the seashores.

He passed away at a mere 29, and was the first West Indian Test cricketer to die. One can only hope this at least immortalises him to some extent.

8. The 35th MacKinnon of MacKinnon

A slight cheating here, but if the ‘de’s and ‘van’s can make it, why not an ‘of’? Francis MacKinnon, the 35th MacKinnon of the famous Highland Scottish clan of MacKinnon, played a solitary Test and a handful of First-Class matches.

However, he served as Kent CCC President, and was a Justice of Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent. He lived till almost 99, almost half a century of that period as the 35th MacKinnon.

The Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (Vizzy) would also have qualified, but we went for the one who did not bribe opposition bowlers with gold watches, asking them to bowl full-tosses.

9. Garth le Roux

Terrifyingly fast at times, le Roux missed out on a Test career simply because his career coincided with South Africa’s Apartheid era. A tally of 838 First-Class wickets at 21 was enough proof of what the world had missed out on.

Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket was the highest level at which le Roux played. He took 17 wickets from the 3 ‘Tests’, taking 5 wickets twice and 4 more on another occasion.

A man of fiery temper, le Roux had a vicious bouncer. If they did not get out, they often had a bruised body part by the end of the day. They said that the sheer impact of the ball hitting the bat could be numbing at times. He could also be a brutal hitter down the order, and can bat above the 35th MacKinnon if needed.

He will obviously get the new ball, and not for the fact that ‘roux’ is French for ‘red’. It is not clear whether Garth had his roots in the little Belgian town of Roux or the relatively less obscure Free State town, Paul Roux.

10. Vintcent van der Bijl

Sharing new ball with le Roux will be ‘Vince’ van der Bijl, a man as fast but of zero ferocity. Van der Bijl ran through sides with a smile so deceptively apologetic that you would almost never believe that he has actually got you out: how could a bald, genial man have caused damage of any kind to anyone?

Unfortunately, his career coincided with the Apartheid era as well, which kept him out of international cricket for good.

How good was van der Bijl? His First-Class average was an astonishing 16.54 (he had 767 wickets). He is the leading wicket-taker in the Currie Cup (le Roux is second). He played 14 seasons in all (16, if you include two seasons that had one match each), and his worst average for a season was 21.

He had a dangerous bouncer, but he refused to unleash it on tail-enders (“but I might kill him”). He did not need to. His relentless accuracy (he once apologised to his captain for bowling two half-volleys in a match), awkward cutters, and the perfect yorker seldom failed to do the trick.

I know it is probably cheating to pick a ‘van der’, given that there is already a ‘van’ in the side, but we can be allowed some adjustments. As for the name, ‘der’ means ‘axe’ in Dutch, so the entire surname translates to ‘of the axe’.

11. Adolph von Ernsthausen

The third genuine quick bowler in the line-up, von Ernsthausen played 30 First-Class matches for Oxford and Surrey between 1900 and 1904, taking 94 wickets at 28. A decade after his career got over (just before World War I), von Ernsthausen changed his name to Adolph Christian Ernest Howeson for reasons unknown.

Ernsthausen is the name of at least three places in Hessen, Germany.

Given the number of South Africans in the side, it is no surprise that the team boasts of several all-rounders. The bowling is quite potent, with le Roux and van der Bijl taking new ball, backed by von Ernsthausen. If the conditions still help, da Costa and ten Doeschate will bowl seam. They will be supported by the leg-breaks of van Ryneveld and the left-arm spin of de Wet de Lange. With de Villiers, du Plessis, and ten Doeschate, the batting line-up looks formidable as well.

12th man: Adriano dos Santos

A solid middle-order batsman, dos Santos played a handful of matches for Mpumalanga and Eastern Province. Oh, ‘santos’ is Portuguese for ‘saints’.

Note: I am grateful to Michael Jones for his inputs regarding infixes.

Squad: Michael di Venuto, AB de Villiers (wk), Faf du Plessis, Ryan ten Doeschate, Clive van Ryneveld, Con de Wet de Lange (c), Oscar da Costa, The 35th MacKinnon of MacKinnon, Garth le Roux, Vintcent van der Bijl, Adolph von Ernsthausen, Adriano dos Santos (12th man).