Our cricketer nicknames bear a striking resemblance to the dust bowls we pass off as pitches. Mostly they are dry (Gauti, Viru, Zak, Yuvi, Dada), lifeless (Sanu, Chikku, Mahi, Jaddu) or doctored for spin (The Wall, Haryana Hurricane, Turbonator, Master Blaster, Very Very Special, Captain Cool).
Rarely do you get names with wit. ‘Amarnought’ (the moniker Mohinder earned when he scored three ducks against Holding in the Windies tour of India in 1983/84) and ‘Bombay Duck’ (bestowed on Agarkar for notching seven straight zeroes against the Aussies) are the only two, I can recollect.
In stark contrast, the willow wielders and red cherry hurlers from other nations sport far more colourful pet names. David Boon, the portly opener who is best remembered for glugging 54 cans of beer while flying from Sydney to London for the Ashes tour, was called ‘Keg on Legs’ for his high-spiritedness.
Angelo Mathews was labelled ‘Superman’ by his team mates for his kinky penchant for wearing the underwear over his tights. Richie Benaud, the all rounder turned commentator, was famously lampooned as ‘Diamonds’ as his friends believed Richie was so lucky that even ‘if he were to put his mouth into a bucketful of shit, he’d come up eating diamonds’.
Mfuneko Ngam, the South African cricketer who played three test matches in his career, had a cleverly concocted nick. He was ‘Chewey’ as Ngam sounded very much like the ‘ingum’ in chewing gum!
When the team members are too polite, sometimes the crowd pitches in with a suitable moniker. Umar Gul was anointed with the ‘Peshawar Rickshaw’ tag as his pace was rather slow when compared to ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar. Likewise when the bodyline-fame JWHT Douglas took 183 minutes to clock 33 runs, the irate spectators dubbed his initials as ‘Johnny Won’t Hit Today’.
Sometimes the media contributes to the fun with spicy coinages. Nasser Hussain’s tendency to break his fingers, earned him the snarky ‘Poppadom Fingers’ appellation. Nantie Hayward, the man touted to replace Alan Donald, was billed as ‘Wayward Hayward’ for his unpredictably raw pace. And slow runner Mark Richardson was mocked as ‘Rigor’ (short for rigor mortis) as he moved like a dead man!