Funny and quirky nicknames of cricketers

Cricket has a rich tradition of using nicknames with some cricketers known more by their moniker than their actual names. On former cricketer Ramakant Desai's birth anniversary, here's a look at his and some other cricketers' nicknames

Cricket enthusiasts... Think you know your game. But do you know who are the 'Muscles', 'Jumbo', 'Pigeon' or 'Monkey' of cricket? Well, read on to know more...

Cricketers are known for the innovative strokes they execute; the different ways they work out to outwit batsmen and not forgetting the captains who spend every minute on the field finding the balance between attacking and conservative captaincy. The willow wielders and leather-hurling personalities often come up with some smart nicknames for their teammates. The name-givers are not always known, but the names emerge all the same. Let's take a look at some of the most interesting of pet names alongwith their origins:

Former Indian fast bowler Ramakant Desai, who was a specialist at bowling bouncers during his time, was only 5 feet and 4 inches 'tall'. This led to him getting the nickname 'Tiny'.

Smartest nickname of all?

Michael Holding
Michael Holding

Hear it from the man himself... former West Indian fast bowling great Michael Holding: "Dickie Bird, the umpire, described my run-up as 'Whispering Death'. I never carried much weight, was light on my feet, and I didn't pound the turf on the way in." In fact, Holding's first autobiography was entitled 'Whispering Death'.

Glenn McGrath stayed a thin fast bowler throughout his career. He was called Pigeon because of his frame especially in the leg area.

Glenn McGrath
Glenn McGrath. Pic/ AFP

Anil Kumble was christened 'Jumbo' because of the way his deliveries took off with pace and bounce off the pitch --akin to a jumbo jet.

Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar
Anil Kumble (left) is known as 'Jumbo and Sachin Tendulkar as Tendlya or Little Master

Allan Donald, the former South Africa fast bowler and now a much sought-after bowling coach was called White Lightning due to his sheer pace.

Andrew Flintoff is known as 'Freddie' or 'Fred' because of his surname's similarity to comic character Fred Flintstone.

Aravinda de Silva used to play some shots, which either went over the fence or caused his dismissal. So, some smart guy started calling him 'Mad Max'.

Ashley Giles, the spinner in England's 2005 Ashes-winning squad got the nickname of 'King of Spain'. No, he did not hone his skills in Spain but these were the words inscribed on merchandise mugs at the Warwickshire Club shop at Edgbaston. Should have been 'King of Spin.'

Ashley Mallett, the former Australia off-spinner, who is an occasional MiD DAY columnist, was called Rowdy by his teammates. Not because he was just that in the dressing room, but due to his quiet nature.

Bill Lawry
Bill Lawry was known as 'Phantom'

Bill Lawry is a voice heard in commentary during Test and one-day matches in Australia. "It's all happening at the Sydney Cricket Ground," one can often hear him yell. By the way, for those are not familiar with Bill Lawry's cricketing background, he is a former Australia captain. Lawry acquired the nickname 'Phantom' on his debut series in England, 1961. Our Australian informer tells us that it may have been fast bowler Frank Mission who gave him that name after he discovered Lawry's penchant for Phantom comics.

Gavin Larsen, a faithful servant of New Zealand cricket, was nicknamed 'The Postman' by his mates because he always delivered.

Graeme Smith hit the ball pretty hard so a fellow South African compared to him a buffalo which became 'biff'.

Harbhajan Singh is known as Bhajji, but 'Turbanator' came into the picture (coined by the Aussies, it appears) when he troubled Steve Waugh's Australians in the Kolkata and Chennai Tests of the 2001 series at home.

Herschelle Gibbs, who made headlines with his controversial autobiography 'To The Point', was known as 'Scooter'. "When I was 16 and couldn't drive a car, the guys at Western Province joked that they would buy me a scooter," Gibbs revealed.

Ian Botham
Ian Botham is called Beefy

Ian Botham is called Beefy. The answer comes from his frame. Beefy appeared on a range of frozen meat launched in 2001.

James Hopes' lack of facial hair earned him the nickname Catfish because it sprouts like catfish whiskers.

Jason Gillespie, the Australian fast bowler, who figured in the Indian Cricket League before making an appearance as bowling coach of Kings XI Punjab, is called 'Dizzy' after American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

Kamran Khan, the fast bowler, who played for Rajasthan Royals in 2009, was nicknamed 'Tornado' by his captain Shane Warne for his slinging action and pace.

Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan and Mumbai Indians pace ace, is called 'Slinga', which is a reference to his slinging action as well as his name.

Lance Klusener, the South African fast bowler is nicknamed 'Zulu' because he could speak the language fluently.

Michael Clarke, who took over the Australian captaincy from Ricky Ponting recently was called Pup when he was the youngest member of the Test side.

Mike Hussey is known as 'Mr. Cricket' because he is a good student of the game.

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid is also called 'The Wall'

Rahul Dravid was nicknamed 'Jammy' by some smart pal because his father Sharad worked for jam and syrup giants Kissan.

Ricky Ponting has been called 'Punter' for long because he loves a bet. Not on cricket matches, it must be emphasised. In Tasmania, where he grew up, greyhound racing is a gambling sport which Ponting loved to indulge in.

Shahid Afridi is named 'Boom Boom' because he goes boom boom with a bat in hand.

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

Shaun Marsh is nicknamed SOS which stands for 'Son of Swampy'. Swampy is his father Geoff Marsh's nickname thanks to the marshy connection to the surname.

Steve Waugh was known as 'Tugga' which is a pun on tug of war (Tugga Waugh). He was also called 'Iceman' because he could perform under pressure

Stuart Broad, the England fast bowler, is called 'Westlife' in the England dressing room for his boy band good looks.

Stuart Clark, Aussie bowler, is called Sarfraz as his bowling style reminds teammates of former Pakistani paceman Sarfraz Nawaz.


Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni
While Sourav Ganguly (left) is known as 'Dada', 'Dadi' and 'Prince of Kolkata', MS Dhoni is known as 'Captain Cool', 'MS', 'Mahi' or''MSD'

Ajit Agarkar was called 'Bombay Duck', bequeathed him after a remarkable run of seven zeroes on the trot against Australia.
Sourav Ganguly was affectionately called 'Dadi' by his team-mates.

Virat Kohli's Delhi coach Ajit Chaudhary gave Virat his nickname 'Cheeku' over his spiked hairstyle and it stuck.

Venkatapathy Raju was nicknamed 'Muscles' because of thin frame during his playing days.

Navjot Singh Sidhu was named 'Sherry' according to him because his father was drinking that particular product at the time of his birth.

Anshuman Gaekwad was supposedly given the nickname 'Charlie' by Bishan Singh Bedi.

The Army

Mumbai club Dadar Union for whom the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar played for, was known for their discipline. It was only fitting that some of their famous names had army-related nicknames. Dilip Vengsarkar was called 'Colonel', Suresh Tigdi was 'Major' and Vithal Patil was called 'Marshal'.

Yuvi silenced?

When Sachin Tendulkar celebrated 20 years of international cricket in 2009, Yuvraj Singh revealed that the master batsman was called 'Grandfather' in the Indian dressing room. When Tendulkar was asked about it, he did not appear livid. He was not amused either. "I warned him to think twice before calling me grandpa because I have many names to call him in front of the camera," he reportedly said. Yuvi has been silent on that nickname since.

All in place...

Javagal Srinath was called Mysore Express
Shoaib Akhtar... Rawalpindi Express
Waqar Younis... Burewala Bomber
Virender Sehwag... Butcher from Najafgarh or Nawab of Najafgarh
Jonty Rhodes.... Maritzburg Mamba (for his sharp and electrifying fielding)
Sanath Jayasuriya... Matara Mauler
Kapil Dev... The Haryana Hurricane
Sourav Ganguly... The Prince of Kolkata

Initial utterance
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is known by his initials AB
Kevin Pietersen... KP
Mahendra Singh Dhoni... MS
Allan Border... AB

Quite obviously...
Gautam Gambhir... Gauti
Sachin Tendulkar... Tendlya
Virender Sehwag... Viru
Shaun Pollock... Polly
Inzamam ul Haq... Inzi
Adam Gilchrist... Gilly
Mushtaq Ahmed... Mushy
Yuvraj Singh... Yuvi

Wonder why...

... English commentator David Lloyd is called 'Bumble'? Because his face bears some similarity to animation characters called 'Bumblies'.

Animal Kingdom
Kersi Meher-Homji (An Indian-born, Sydney-based cricket historian)

Cricketers have strange nicknames. England's Albert N. Hornby was nicknamed 'Monkey' and was not offended. He had played three Tests for England from 1879 to 1884, opening the batting with WG Grace in his final Test. He captained England in the 1882 Oval Test when the legend of Ashes was born. He had also represented and captained England in Rugby Tests. So one wonders what the hoo-haa was about Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds in 2008. Thank goodness, IPL has united them, both playing for Mumbai Indians.

Here are famous cricketers with animal/fish/bird nicknames.

There were three Tigers: the great Bill O'Reilly, Ernest Smith (11 Tests for England in 1910s) and Mansur Pataudi (India's captain in 1960s and '70s).

Mansur Ali Pataudi
Mansur Ali Pataudi

Now, for some seafood platter: Digby Jephson of Cambridge University and Surrey was called Lobster. Sir Henry DG Leveson Gower (three Tests for England in 1909) had the unflattering nickname of Shrimp. Tall and slim Australian all-rounder Hunter Hendry (11 Tests between World Wars) was known as Stork. Then there were two Australian Test cricketers in the 1970s, Alan 'Froggy' Thomson and Bruce 'Mule' Francis. Joel 'Big Bird' Garner, the tall West Indian fast bowler, was nicknamed after a character in the children's TV serial Sesame Street and Clive 'Big Cat' Lloyd for his size and agility on the field.

Aussie paceman Merv Hughes was aptly nicknamed Fruitfly because of his pestering habits! England's pace bowler Geoff Arnold was called Horse because of his initials 'GG', which is Cockney for horse. Australian spinner Bruce Yardley was Roo for his bouncing kangaroo-like approach to the wicket. And the eccentric English spinner, Phil Tufnell, went by the pet name of Cat.

Michael Clarke was nicknamed Pup on his debut tour of India in 2004 by his team mates as he showed the enthusiasm of a puppy. Glenn McGrath was nicknamed Pigeon for his pigeon-toed bowling approach to the crease. Pigeon flew away from the Test scene in 2007 and Pup grew up too and has now retired back to his kennel. 

(With inputs from Gulu Ezekiel and Shreyas Bhat)

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