Superstitions and numerology are rife in sport and cricket and its players have some rather odd stories to tell.
It wasn’t until the 1999 Cricket World Cup that jersey numbers became commonplace in cricket. While it was used as early as 1995-96 World Series Cup, the first World Cup to see player jersey numbers was 1999. Since then, the numbers have been an avenue for cricketers to explore their quirky side. And some of them went really quirky.
Zeroes and beyond
Herschelle Gibbs could light up a cricket field with his extraordinarily hand-eye coordinated strokes, but he did so in a handful of jersey numbers that started right from 00. In 2005, Gibbs decided to have different jersey numbers each year, with the last two digits of the year making up his jersey number. He went through 05, 06, 07, 08 and 09 before switching to 74 – the year he was born was 1974 – for Mumbai Indians.
Mashrafe Mortaza later sought inspiration from Gibbs and sported the ‘0’ jersey number in the BPL, citing that he was inspired by what it stood for: “start from zero again”.
Special characters, anyone?
Ashwell Prince had the jersey number 5, formerly used by Hansie Cronje. After the untimely death of the South African skipper, the number was retired and Prince started using a queer ‘5+0’ on the back of his jersey.
The triple digits
Personal landmarks on their jerseys are always in fashion among cricketers. Chris Gayle famously sported the number ‘333’ on his jersey. It was his highest Test score.
Muttiah Muralitharan, who used to sport the number 8 on his back, wore the famous 800 jersey for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, reminding the world of his jaw-dropping Test wicket tally.
Kamran Akmal’s back read 158, his highest Test score, while Hardik Pandya sported 228 for a while, a score he made for the under-16 Baroda side when walking in at 23-4.
An odd one on this section is the number ‘400’ worn by Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo in IPL 2018. While Pollard was celebrating the fact that he was the first player to play 400 T20s, Bravo was hinting at his outrageous wicket tally at the time: 400 T20 wickets.
Then there is the revenge story. Marlon Samuels had 730 on the back of his BPL jersey once, indicating the number of days he was banned from the sport for corruption charges in 2008.
Australians aren’t probably known for their superstitions, but they do have a thing for heroes. Paul Reiffel (No.4), Mark Waugh (No.6) and Ian Healy (No.7) had their jersey numbers in honour of childhood heroes from other sports. Darren Lehmann also switched from No.25 to No.10 as a mark of respect for a hero from his younger days, Barry Robran, a South Australia player with two first-class matches to his name.
The standout mention here is Shane Warne passing his jersey number on to Michael Clarke. Having sported the number 23 because of Michael Jordan – one which he used in the under-19 days in the AFL too – Warne handed the number to Clarke before the 2004/05 series against New Zealand.
“I’ll have a think about the number 23,” Clarke said then. “But I’m honoured to have received it from Shane Warne”
Stars and their ‘stars’
Rohit Sharma’s lucky number is 9, but it was unavailable – worn by Parthiv Patel at the time – when he made his India debut. His mother asked him to take up 45 (4 + 5= 9) instead and it stuck.
Sachin Tendulkar’s No.10 jersey is now retired, but it wasn’t his first jersey number. At one point, Tendulkar had 99 on his back before an astrologer suggested he take up No.10 as it was already part of his name (‘Ten’dulkar).
Virender Sehwag had the number 44 on his jersey first, which he then changed to 46 on the advice of an astrologer. But that didn’t stick either as he soon decided he didn’t need a number on his back to score runs and chose to not have one at all!
The quirkiest ones
Sarfaraz Khan, the Punjab Kings batsman, has 97 on his jersey because reading the Hindi version of the numbers (Nau and Saat) together resemble his father’s name, Naushad.
Morne Morkel is so proud of his height – six feet, five inches – that he has the jersey number 65 to indicate the same.
Rahul Dravid changed his jersey number from 5 to 19 as the latter, he once joked, was a reminder about his wife’s birthday!
Dinesh Karthik was smart enough to borrow the idea.
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