Tiger, pigeon, pup and monkey — cricketers nicknamed after animals

Big Bird Joel Garner with Sunny Gavaskar

By Kersi Meher-Homji  

From 19th century till recent times, cricketers have had nicknames, from odd to contrasting to bang on target. And what a range — from Tiger O’Reilly, Tiger Pataudi, Slasher Mackay, Phantom Lawry, Chappelli, Sunny Gavaskar, Tangles Walker and Henry Lawson to Afghan Mark Waugh, Dizzy Gillespie, Pigeon McGrath and Pup Clarke.

Let me restrict to cricketers with animal nicknames for this article. 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.

Now for some seafood platter; Digby Jephson of Cambridge University and Surrey was called Lobster and 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 between World Wars) was called Stork Hendry. Then there were two Australian Test cricketers in 1970s, Alan Froggy Thomson and Bruce Mule Francis.

Joel Garner, the tall West Indian fast bowler, was nicknamed Big Bird after a character in the children’s TV serial Sesame Street.

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

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 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 also represented England in nine Rugby Tests. And he was proud of his nickname.

Those days, monkeys did not have racial connotations. Remember the ignorant and unnecessary Harbhajan Singh – Andrew Symonds Bollyline controversy in the January 2008 Sydney Test? It is remembered as the ”˜monkeygate’.

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.

Simon Katich was called Kat but that is a short form of his surname.

Pigeon (Glenn McGrath) flew away from Test scene in 2007 and Pup (Michael Clarke) left his paw marks on international cricket after calling it a day in 2015.

TIDU readers are requested to add to my list.


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