Punter and Virgil eye the World Cup

BRIDGETOWN (Barbados): Come April 28, Punter will fancy his chances of having his hands on the World Cup. 

But Virgil also harbours similar ambitions. 

In the colourful world of one-day cricket, players' nicknames are about as mystifying as a Muralitharan doosra. 

Punter is Australia captain Ricky Ponting, a name earned due to his liking for a flutter while England captain Michael Vaughan is Virgil, not as a result of any epic performances, but because of a reputed likeness to a character from the Thunderbirds children's show. 

“A lot of mind-power has gone into some nicknames,” said Australian wicket-keeper and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist. 

“Glenn McGrath's nickname, Pigeon, came courtesy of his New South Wales team-mates early in his career, when he was a skinny country lad. 

“They felt that somewhere in the world there was a pigeon flying non-stop, as he could not land while McGrath used the bird's legs as his own.” 

McGrath has also been dubbed Millard, in honour of a brand of caravan in which he first lived when he first moved to Sydney. 

Gilchrist said he has picked up the name of Churchy. 

“A young autograph hunter once approached me and said: 'Excuse me Eric Gilchurch, can I have your autograph?'“        

However, the Australian team is most proud of fast bowler Brett Lee, sadly injured and not involved in the World Cup.        

Amongst his many nicknames is Oswald. 

Apparently at the start of one game, the batting order was being read aloud, comprising Brett Lee behind brother Shane and all-rounder Ian Harvey. 

Former skipper Steve Waugh announced the names – Lee, Harvey.....and Oswald came out of the dressing room. 

Matthew Hayden, with his dedication to physical fitness, is known as Hulk and Unit. 

Michael Clarke has always been referred to as Pup for his youthful looks on his debut in 2003 as a raw 22-year-old. 

“Being called Pup is fine,” said the in-form Clarke last year. “But they don't look at me like that any more.” 

Elsewhere in the Australian squad, Brad Hodge is Dodgeball while Brad Hogg is The Postman, in reference to his former job. 

As well as Vaughan's Virgil, the England team have Ian Bell who has been called Boyband as well as The Shermanator, by tormenter Shane Warne, after the geeky character in the film American Pie. 

Andrew Flintoff has been SuperFred, Mr. InFredible but more recently Fredalo after his now-infamous late night trip in a pedalo in the early stages of the World Cup. 

Monty Panesar is Parmesan Tony, an anagram of his own name. 

Amongst the New Zealanders, batsman Peter Fulton is called Two-Metre Peter. At 6ft 8in, Fulton is believed to be one of the tallest ever players. 

Curiously all the Bangladesh players are known by their nicknames, not just to other players but also fans and the media. 

Former skipper Khaled Masud was known as Pilot; current opening batsman Javed Omer is Gullu. 

Bangladesh nicknames are usually thought up by parents. 

Calling others names can backfire, however, as Flintoff discovered when he inadvertently riled Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar. 

“Freddie Flintoff made a comment. He was talking about my physique. He said: 'He may be Tarzan but he cannot bowl',” Shoaib recalled. 

“All I say is: thanks for keeping me focused. It made me realise that something needed to be done, that I definitely had a point to prove.”  

Shoaib took 17 wickets in three Tests as Pakistan beat England 2-0 in 2005. – AFP 

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