There are many sports stars with noticeable superstitions. You only have to watch Rafael Nadal and his water bottles, towels, jumping … wedgies … to see that. And cricketers are no different. In short, they are a superstitious bunch. Here are 10 of the quirkiest superstitions in cricket.
No luck Nelson
David Shepherd, officiating his final international match, stands on one leg as England reach 111 runs against Australia at The Oval in 2005. Photo: AP
“Nelson” is the much-feared score of 111 made either by a team or an individual. Multiples of 111 (222, 333, 444, etc) are also viewed with dread. Some say it’s unlucky because 111 resembles three stumps without bails, which obviously equates to a dismissal. Others say it originates from famed British Royal Navy flag officer Admiral Lord Nelson, who supposedly had one eye, one arm and one leg towards the end of his life. The late, great umpire David Shepherd brought the superstition to prominence as he used to always stand on one leg when the score reached 111 in an attempt to counter its supposed sinister powers, much to the delight of fans around the world.
The Devil’s number
In Australia, the number 87 is viewed with as much trepidation as it is 13 runs shy of a century. The number 13 is considered unlucky by many. However, its true origins are wedded to an incident that occurred nearly 90 years ago. In 1929, a 10-year-old Keith Miller was stunned to witness Don Bradman get bowled for 87 in a shield match while playing for New South Wales against Victoria at the MCG. The incident stuck with Miller and as his prominence in Australian cricket grew down the track, so did the myth surrounding the number 87. After World War II it became entrenched in cricketing folklore, although Miller discovered later on that, upon further inspection of the scorecard, Bradman had actually been dismissed for 89 on that infamous day!
Sir Donald Bradman.
Tugga’s lucky red rag
The legendary Australian captain Steve Waugh kept a red rag in his pocket for the majority of his international career. The practice began in 1993 when he used it to wipe away sweat while batting against England in the fourth Ashes Test at Leeds. He went on to hit 157 not out in that innings, so as a result he ensured it remained a fixture of his cricketing get-up for his final 11 years as an Australian cricketer. Waugh once described it as his “security blanket”.
Steve Waugh with the famous red rag in 2003. Photo: Heath Missen
Neil the Neurotic
As far as superstitious cricketers go, South African batsman Neil McKenzie would take some beating for the all-time crown. Some of his most bizarre rituals included ensuring that the toilet seats were always down before he went out to bat, needing to have all the lights in the changing room off before going out to bat (he also had to check it eight times) and taping his bat to the ceiling before the game.
South African batsman Neil McKenzie in 2009. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Stay right where you are, AB!
The first day of the fifth Ashes Test in 1989 is one of the most famous days of the storied England-Australia rivalry. Batting first, the Aussies didn’t lose a wicket and reached stumps at 0-301 with Geoff Marsh (125) and Mark Taylor (141) unbeaten. But it might not have panned out that way if not for the actions of Terry Alderman. Well, the paceman would have you believe that at least. A pensive and padded-up Allan Border, who was due in at second drop, started the day in the dressing room watching Marsh and Taylor punish the dispirited Poms on TV. When he decided he wanted to watch the pair do their damage with his own two eyes, a panicked Alderman quickly intervened and demanded that the skipper stay seated in front of the TV. Not wanting to rock the boat, that’s where AB would stay for the rest of the day and the Aussies ended up winning the match by an innings and 180 runs.
Jaysuriya’s touching display
Former Sri Lankan superstar Sanath Jayasuriya had the tiresome ritual of touching every piece of his batting equipment before facing each ball. Given he faced a grand total of 25,895 deliveries across all three formats, that’s a lot of touching – and that doesn’t even include his domestic career! However, he did average 40.07 and 32.36 at Test and ODI level respectively and smacked a combined total of 42 centuries and 99 half-centuries. So who are we to judge?
Sanath Jayasuriya. Photo: Tim Clayton
Kiss and run-up
Jayasuriya’s slinging countryman Lasith Malinga had arguably an even more peculiar habit of kissing the ball every time before he began his bowling run-up. “I have the greatest respect for the cricket ball,” he once explained.
Sachin’s superstitious satay streak
When the game’s greatest run-scorer Sachin Tendulkar made his second-highest score of 241 not out against Australia in Sydney in January 2004, in what was one of the finest innings of his career, there was a curious subplot to that batting masterclass. It was later revealed that the Little Master, owner of 100 international tons, ate the same food at the same Malaysian restaurant on the same table for three consecutive nights during the match so as not to break the routine that saw him strike a rich vein of form. He also hit 60 not out in that drawn Test.
The Little Master: Sachin Tendulkar. Photo: Cole Bennetts
Double-ton duck delight for Smith
Still on the food theme, Australian skipper Steve Smith never used to eat duck on the eve of a match. An individual score of zero is referred to as a duck, so that superstition is pretty self-explanatory. However, he thoughtlessly consumed the tasty bird prior to the Ashes Test at Lord’s in 2015. In the process, he proved the fallacy of his strict dietary rule as he went on to make his then career-best score of 215 not out. We cannot confirm or deny if he ate duck prior to the Perth Test in which he set a new personal benchmark of 239.
Lucky duck: Aussie captain Steve Smith. Photo: AAP
Lyon’s bad bail habit
The GOAT, aka gun Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon, has a quirky habit of his own. Whenever the New South Welshman comes on to bowl, he feels the need to roll the bails over. Smith sums up everyone’s thoughts perfectly by commenting, “I’ve seen it a couple of times … and I think, what are you doing mate?” Well, he must be doing something right given he is this country’s greatest offie with 283 Test wickets at 31.55.
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