Knackerbags and Co.
Cricket is a game that has an affinity for nicknames. Just recently, ESPNcricinfo published their poll of the “Greatest ODI Cricketer Ever“, to discover who reigned supreme from five international cricketing colossuses. Or, as they’re widely known, “Sir Viv”, “Waz”, “MS”, “Gilly” and “The Little Master”.
On Saturdays, it’s uncommon to hear any of the twenty-two blokes from either side referred to by their real names. Which is great – until you’ve got to enter somebody’s name in to the scorebook.
“Bowler’s name, lads?”
“Alright. But who is he?”
“He’s Possum, mate!”
“Yeah, but what’s his bloody name?”
MyCricket is a great piece of software – but I doubt it will automatically add Possum’s round four bowling figures on to “A. McCrawley”‘s career bowling stats, where they belong.
Nicknames: A rite-of-passage
Nicknames are one of my favorite parts of playing cricket. It’s a rite-of-passage that every cricketer undertakes; at its base level, it’s a bunch of other cricket nuffies saying, “the name your parents gave you doesn’t matter”, and it’s how you know you’re part of the team.
I especially love the interesting nicknames – like Fang, so-called because he lost one of his teeth whilst chasing a ball into the boundary fence. That’s a fanatical dedication to cricket I think plenty of park cricketers can understand – but probably not his dentist.
I’m not so impressed by the boring nicknames you sometimes get, such as when most of the opposition are known as some variation on “Knackerbags”, or “Cocko”, or “Hey Here’s A Nickname Which Makes Some Reference To My Quote-Unquote Massive Penis”.
Against this grain goes our regular bowling averages winner from the second XI, otherwise known as “A. Hunt”. A great bloke with a very plain name, the sort of nondescript name that’s adopted by a grizzled, FBI-fleeing detective in a Tom Clancy novel. But he’s made up for this with his myriad of nicknames, has our Hunty (there’s one): opposition teams must think we’re taking to the park with sixteen players, having no idea that “Huntsman”, “Flagpole”, “Waterhole”, and a few other vulgar variants are all the same bloke.
Why do cricketers have nicknames?
I was scoring the other weekend for one of our Under 16s team. I’ve been very loosely drafted in as co-coach – but the incumbent eighteen year-old coach is so across it that I simply stick to net-bowling, scoring, and giving lifts to players (although I’ve been known to get us lost on occasion).
During one of my stints as Head Scorer, I was explaining to my colleague (one of the opposition’s mums) the difference between the two of our opening batsmen.
“Benny,” I said, “is right-handed, short and has a bright red helmet, to go with his bright red hair. Jake is slightly taller, slightly stockier, and is a left-handed batsman with a blue helmet.”
From then on, we referred to them as “red red” and “big blue”. And once “big blue” was sent packing – from a dubious call that was either LBW, or caught behind, or both, but not one or the other – he was replaced at the crease by our number three, or “little green”.
“Little green” is little. And by “green”, we don’t mean “new to the team”, or that he had some bizarre green hair-dye, or that he was blazin’ 420 – he was, rather conveniently, wearing a solid green helmet.
The mum, Sue, said to me, “is it bad that we’re referring to these guys by their base characteristics?”
“Sue,” I said, “if you learn one thing from today’s session – know that 95% of cricket is breaking down people in to base characteristics.”
I certainly don’t approve of doing this in real life – but in cricket, it’s really efficient. Screw remembering people’s names – we’re here to play cricket, not take a bloody census.
Which is how you come to know and play against blokes referred to as “Beardy”, “Haircut”, “Tatts” and “the Lesbian.” “Wide-brimmed” and “Spectacles.” “Fatty” and “the Wife-Beater” – which sounds like a truly appalling FM radio show.
And these names are fine. They’re short, sharp, and distinguishable. The only challenge is not calling them those names to their faces.
Dead-set, if you’re playing a bloke called “Armpits”, you don’t want to come out and say it to his face.
Because Armpits could get a little hairy.