Wisden’s Zinc Oxide regulars XI
The undervalued saviour to countless cricketers, Zinc Oxide has been a regular in the game for decades now. Here’s an XI of players we can’t picture without a lump of white on their faces.
The protective film has remained popular to keep away the harmful effects of continued sun exposure for long hours. Guarding against UV rays that can cause skin rashes, sunburn and wrinkles (and in extreme forms, skin cancer), zinc oxide has remained a useful physical reflector.
Enough of the chemistry lecture. Here’s the XI:
For someone who played Test cricket for nearly a quarter-century, Tendulkar’s zinc oxide days came much later but were still longer than many careers. As he neared 40, Tendulkar started caking his face with a pale layer of white, shielding the rest of it with the white floppy hat. It was always a gentle strip though, nothing more.
One from the modern lot. Rizwan’s modus operandi doesn’t alter, be it under the sun or floodlights. A bright stream of white invariably adorns his lips and is often accompanied by a pair of reflector shades when he’s got the keeping gloves on. Don’t ask more – a fan bizarrely tried to probe Wasim Akram about it; the great man just couldn’t hide his disbelief.
One of the modern game’s foremost fashionistas. Jones introduced the cricketing world to sunglasses, and possibly even zinc oxide lip balms. Around the mid-Eighties, Jones was first seen wearing white cream, with a sun hat and white wristbands adding to the look over the years. When Jones passed away in 2020, the Australian team gave a nod to him by wearing zinc on their bottom lips during the anthem ahead of the MCG Test.
Akmal’s career might have nosedived, but he was definitely one of Pakistan’s finest young batting products. And much before he ventured into the bizzaro world of lip-syncing TikToks, Umar knew how to capture public attention. At the 2010 T20 World Cup, 20-year-old Umar stepped out wearing a neon green lip balm. Reddit Cricket hasn’t been the same since.
Long before he became an Australia regular, Mike Hussey was piling on runs for Western Australia with an injudicious stream of white paint flowing through his sweaty face. The tip of the nose continued to be caked in white for years to come, often expanding to reach the sides of his cheeks and his lips.
Much like Hussey, Symonds’ white-lip days began early, as far back as the mid-Nineties, when he was just breaking into the Queensland team. Be it with a shaved head or his locks, the white lips perfectly accentuated his menacing look. That trademark look became a lasting memory of a great all-rounder.
Perry entered international cricket as a 17-year-old with a bolt in her step and white cream on her face and has continued to wear that look since that debut day in Darwin, in 2007. Be it the yellow Australia kit, the blue Victoria Spirit jersey or even in a W-League football game, a splash of white across her cheeks and nose became a Perry trademark.
Warne kept the white cream on for most of his career, right from his debut in Sydney in 1992, to his final bow at the same ground 15 years later. Unlike most things Warne, it was hardly extravagant, with the nose tipped in bright white, or applied as a pale film on the cheeks. Long after he had retired, Warne contemplated giving the zinc oxide another go on a hot Melbourne day in 2012.
It was a tough competition between Hughes and Craig McDermott, but we gave Fruitfly the nod owing to his overall look. The heavy smear of white was the ideal complement to his majestic stache, with a bit of it brushed along the earlobes too, a method rarely practised by his peers.
Vaas wasn’t the only player in his team to powder his face white – among others, there was Kumar Sangakkara, sooting his entire visage behind dark shades, or Lasith Malinga, with his white lips and squiggly hair. But you’d remember Vaas the most, the zinc oxide applied all around his cheeks and chin. In Sri Lanka’s baking sun, though, it would never stay for long.
Last, but not least, cricket’s walking advertisement of zinc oxide. On any given day, ‘White Lightning’ had a lot of lightning in his bowling and a lot of white cream on his face. Add it to the deadly scowl he lent to batters, and you had got one of the game’s most iconic sights. It began with a splash across his face, but towards the end, changed to a lip-nose combination. Between all of that, Donald became an all-time great.