On the nicknames of cricketers

There’s a whole range of nicknames for cricketers – many of which have stuck beyond the field and the team

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Here’s something which has been fascinating me lately – nicknames of cricketers. I’ve found a whole range – from Tiger Pataudi, Slasher Mackay, Phantom Lawry, Chappelli, Tangles Walker and Henry Lawson to Turbanator Harbhajan Singh, Afghan Mark Waugh, Dizzy Gillespie, Punter Ponting, Pigeon McGrath and Pup Clarke.              

Let me start with animal nicknames for cricketers. There were three Tigers: the great Australian spin bowler Bill O’Reilly, Ernest Smith (11 Tests for England in 1910s) and Mansur Pataudi, India’s inspiring captain in the 1960s and ’70s. 

England’s pace bowler Geoff Arnold had the pet name of Horse because of his initials ‘GG’ which is Cockney for horse. 

England’s Albert N. Hornsby was nicknamed Monkey – and no, he was not offended. [Remember the Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symons “monkeygate” controversy in the 2008 Sydney Test?] Hornsby had played three Tests for England from 1879 to 1884, opening the batting with WG Grace in his final Test. He was captain of the England team at the 1882 Oval Test, when the legend of Ashes was born. He had also represented England in nine Rugby Tests.  

The three Tigers: Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Ernest Smith, and Bill O’Reilly

Australian spinner Bruce Yardley was Roo for his bouncing kangaroo-like approach to the wicket. Cat seems a popular nickname. The eccentric English spinner Phil Tufnell went by the pet name of Cat. Also the former West Indian captain Clive Lloyd was nicknamed Big Cat for his agility on the field. 

Pup (Michael Clarke) left his paw marks on international cricket after calling it a day in 2015. 

Now for some seafood platter! Digby Jephson of Cambridge University and Surrey was called Lobster while Sir Henry D.G. Leveson Gower (three Tests for England in 1909) had an unflattering nickname of Shrimp. Tall and slim Australian all-rounder Hunter Hendry (11 Tests in 1920s) was called Stork. Then there were two Australian Test cricketers in 1970s, Alan Froggy Thomson and Bruce Mule Francis.  

Next up, ‘birdy’ nicknames of cricketers. 

The NSW medium-pacer Aaron Bird (not to be mistaken with the recent fast bowler Jackson Bird) was nicknamed Flu from Bird Flu. But it was changed as many thought it to be offensive to those affected with influenza. Birdy became a more acceptable nickname. 

Joel Garner, the tall West Indian fast bowler, was nicknamed Big Bird after a character in children’s TV show Sesame Street.  Pigeon (Glenn McGrath) flew away from Test scene in 2007.  


Now to other nicknames. 

Turbaned Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was known as Bhajji and not surprisingly as Turbanator.

Former Australian captain and commentator Bill Lawry was nicknamed Phantom because he loved to read Phantom comic books. 

Nicknames of cricketers
Anil Kumble (Source: Crickbuzz)

India’s spinner Anil Kumble was called Jumbo because his deliveries took off with pace and bounce like a jumbo jet.  

Kumble’s off-spinning contemporary, Australia’s Ashley Mallet, was contradictorily called Rowdy because he was well-mannered! 

The great England all-rounder Ian Botham was nicknamed Beefy because of his large frame. Former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie was called Dizzy after American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. 

Batting great Rahul Dravid was nicknamed Jammy because his father Sharad worked for jam and syrup giants Kissan. The tall Indian batsman Dilip Vengsarkar was Colonel to his teammates. 

Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and Sourav Ganguly (Source: India Today)

West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding was nicknamed Whispering Death. Why? He replied, “Umpire Dicky Bird described my run-up as whispering death.” Later, Holding titled his first autobiography as Whispering Death.

Ricky Ponting is nicknamed Punter as he loves to bet. Not on cricket matches, I may add! In Tasmania, where he grew up, greyhound racing is a gambling sport which young Ponting loved to indulge in. 

Steve Waugh was known as Tugga which is a pun on ‘tug of war’. He was also called Iceman because he was at his best when under pressure. Aussie quickie Stuart Clark was called Sarfraz as his bowling style reminded many of Pakistan’s paceman Sarfraz Nawaz. 

Shane Warne and Steve Waugh (Source: Nick Wilson/Getty Images)

Shane Warne had several nicknames. He was called Suicide Blonde by his teammate Greg Matthews after rock group INXS’s big hit song Suicide Blonde. Warne was also called Hollywood for his exciting lifestyle and good looks.

I’ll end with my favourite cricket nickname: Pakistan’s big hitter Shahid Afridi was named Boom Boom because he went boom boom when batting aggressively! 

Read More: A truly ‘professional’ World XI


Kersi Meher-Homji
Kersi Meher-Homji
Kersi is a virologist by profession and a cricket writer and cricket statistician by hobby. He is an author of 17 cricket books and over 17,000 cricket and scientific articles.

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