Cricket Nicknames: Did the Rock drive The Cockroach up The Wall?
You've all heard of Rahul Dravid, Shahid Afridi, Michael Atherton, John Crawley and Mark Waugh but do you know what all these players' nicknames were? And how come cricketers end up with the best nicknames of any sportsmen, asks Andrew Hughes.
If you ever doubted that professional sports players never really leave the playground behind, you need only flick through the Cricketer's Who's Who. Perhaps because they have so many long and idle hours in the dressing room to fill, cricketers seem to have devoted more time and employed more ingenuity in the manufacture of nicknames than any other group of sportsmen. Indeed some of them can be more proud of their monikers than their playing records.
Most cricketers appear to have at least two nicknames. The basic version is formed by adding a 'y' to the end of their surname and is the one most likely to feature in post-match interviews. Then there are the more elaborate aliases, the names you can imagine ringing down the corridors and being flung across the dressing room. Warney, Straussy and Goughy are fine as far as they go, but Hollywood, Lord Brockett and Rhino make for infinitely more interesting autobiographies.
As well as this, the better cricketers often have a third name, usually dreamt up by journalists. Fast bowlers seem particularly prone to snooker-style epithets. For example, to date there have been five cricketing Expresses, from Ewan Chatfield (the Naerae Express) to Mashrafe Mortaza (the Narail Express.) There has also been a Hurricane (Kapil Dev) a Typhoon (Frank Tyson) and a Demon (Fred Spofforth). Best of the bunch is Whispering Death (Michael Holding) an evocative and chilling nickname that encapsulates the feelings of those batsmen who have faced the great man's silent and ominous glide to the wicket.
Stodgy opening batsmen also feature prominently in this genre of nickname. The Rock (Bill Ponsford) The Wall (Raul Dravid) and The Cockroach (Michael Atherton) sound as though they belong in a wrestling ring. Boom Boom Afridi is a catchy name, even if Shahid is one Boom short these days. And few would argue that Viv Richards was indeed The Master Blaster. Still, these WWF style titles are not real nicknames. It is hard to imagine any of the Indian players yelling, "Well bowled Turbanator!" should Harbhajan excel at a net session.
Genuine nicknames often contain an element of mockery. Ajit Agarkar, having scored zero in seven consecutive innings inevitably became known as The Bombay Duck. Steve's younger brother Mark was Afghan (The Forgotten War/Waugh). Ashley Giles famously took exception to the description Wheelie Bin, coined by Henry Blofeld to describe his onfield mobility. And James Anderson is known as Daisy because some days he does and some days he doesn't. Simple, but true.
Those players of ample girth have attracted nicknames that might not win prizes for originality but which get the message across vividly. Big Ship (Warwick Armstrong) Tubs (Mark Taylor) and Fat Gatt, Branston or Pie (Mike Gatting) are self-explanatory. A plucky Pakistani supporter once took his life in his hands to taunt Inzamam ul-Haq with the name, Aloo, which translates as 'potato'. The name stuck, though how often teammates used it to his face is uncertain.
Then there are those nicknames that require the kind of lateral thinking that only schoolboys or sportsmen with a lot of time on their hands could come up with. How do you think Victoria's favourite wood-chopping fast-bowler, Peter Siddle came to be known as Vicious? Well, Siddle becomes Sid becomes Sid Vicious becomes Vicious. It's obvious, really. And at one time Brett Lee used to feature in the batting order directly below his brother Shane Lee and Ian Harvey. Inevitably he became Oswald. In a similar vein, what nicknames do you think the finest cricket brains came up with for the following esteemed professionals: John Crawley, Vic Marks, Chris Old, Steve Waugh and Geoff Graham Arnold? (Answers below)
Every once in a while, though the ingenuity of even the sharpest dressing room wit is tested. Andrew Flintoff's greatest challenge when he meets up with his Chennai Super Kings teammates will not be to prove his fitness, nor to demonstrate that he is worth his $1.55m fee. His toughest test will be to come up with a nickname for the youngest of his teammates; nineteen year old Napoleon Einstein. Any suggestions I'm sure, will be gratefully received.
John Crawley: Creepy
Vic Marks: Skid
Chris Old: Chilly (C.Old)
Steve Waugh: Tugga
Geoff Graham Arnold: Horse
How many did you get right?