Anendra Singh: CD Stags in Good Nick

By Anendra Singh

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What is it with nicknames in sports?

Scribes often find themselves in a tangle when players start rolling out nicknames such as Barney, Sumo, The Big Red and Macca.

Let's face it, in many cases where would Ernie Els, Martina Hingis, Eldrick Woods, Earvin Johnson and Muhammad Ali's careers have been without validation such as The Big Easy, The Swiss Miss, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson and The Greatest.

They have become marketing tools for conglomerates selling products indirectly by mere association.

Having said that, it isn't always flattering - just ask Scottish professional golfer Colin Montgomerie who has been dubbed Mrs Doubtfire.

Nevertheless, when Shane Warne affectionately talks about how sorry he feels for "Pup" (Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke) with the way his bowlers rolled their arm in the losing test against South Africa this week you sense a certain level of affinity at a national and international level.

Names parents have lovingly bestowed on their children simply wouldn't cut it at the corporate level although mothers will tersely tell phone callers their son isn't "Georgie Pie", based on their voracious appetite, but simply George.

A nickname accorded in a team at any level is quite often a gesture of acceptance into an exclusive circle and builds an air of importance, rendering birth certificates useless.

If nothing, it can simply be a simple exercise in differentiating between players who share the first name.

A one or two-syllable name such Barney rolls off the lips much effortlessly than Kieran Noema-Barnett when a bowler wants to ask his Devon Hotel Central Districts skipper to change field placements.

Sometimes the creative minds play a game of patience that can go from one season to another to come up with a pearler.

Quite often it's evolving and one player can be saddled with two or three nicknames.

Perhaps, accidentally, players often admit they learn a little bit more about themselves.

Hawke's Bay Today paid the CD Stags a visit before their televised HRV Cup Twenty/20 match against the Wellington Firebirds tonight to see how the mechanics of finding nicknames worked in their outfit and how well cricket fans will identify with them.

Noema-Barnett, who is injured and won't play tonight, says the team often come up with nicknames.

"It does help a little, I guess, with making acquaintances on the field," he says.

With two Andrews (Lamb and Mathieson) it pays to have a Lambie and Wild Thing.

While's Lamb's is a no brainer, Mathieson's Wild Thing requires interpretation.

"You just have to look at him. His arms and legs are everywhere," a grinning Noema-Barnett says of the former Northern Districts seamer.

It seems veterans Jacob Oram, Kruger van Wyk and Jamie How, who is captaining tonight's game, are simply Jake, Krugs and Howser.

Debutants Jeet Raval and Ajaz Patel are also simply Jeets and Jazz.

Ben Wheeler is Wheels but some feel it should be tweaked to Wheelchair perhaps on the account of the Manawatu bowler's injuries.

Another evolving nickname is assistant coach Lance Hamilton, who is Hammer, but with English fitness trainer Anthony Sharp in the equation there's an overwhelming feeling Sharpy should be Nails - Hammer and Nails, get it?

Veteran Mathew Sinclair has always been Skippy because he was born in Katherine, Australia, but he's fast becoming Champ.

"Skippy's always calling everyone else Champ," Noema-Barnett explains.

Add to that Carl Cachopa who is simply Chops but the "Run Machine" is gathering momentum after a rash of tons this summer on the heels of two at the end of last season.

Black Cap Doug Bracewell is "Nasa" because "he's not too bright at times", his former flatmate, Noema-Barnett, reckons.

Dean Robinson is simply Deano but he can be "Splaz" although it's a Taranaki label and no one in the CD squad knows what the inspiration behind it is.

Spinner Marty Kain is Waka but it seems only he can decipher that.

Ben Smith is "Smudger" on account of another former CD player of the same name.

William Young, the former New Zealand Under-19 captain, is the "Face".

"He's good looking fellow and he likes to call himself that. He's like the poster boy for CD."

English import Peter Trego is Tregs, Darcy and Pedro Tregos in his Somerset county circles but here he's simply "Geezer". Explains Noema-Barnett: "Oh, that's what all Poms call each other."

Coach Alan Hunt is simply Hunty although he did inherit a nickname in his playing days with Auckland but it's not suitable for publication.

Incidentally, Noema-Barnett is the "Tactician" because he's "always thinking about what tactics to use on the field".

On finding out, How says: "Is that right?"

On a serious note, the opening batsman says tonight's game, on the heels of the opening round defeat to the ND Knights, is another opportunity for CD to excel on the momentum of wins in the four-day Plunket Shield competition where the Stags are leading.

While it's hard not to mention Jesse Ryder, the former Hawke's Bay cricketer is likely to be a crowd puller.

"It's always exciting to test yourself against Jesse, who's a local boy - let's hope he doesn't score too many runs this time - and who did well against us in the four-dayer," How says of Ryder whose knocks saw the Jamie Siddons-coached Firebirds clinch the opening shield match at Nelson Park, Napier.

He puts down the T20 defeat to ND at Seddon Park, Hamilton, as "first-game rustiness".

With McLean Park offering runs in balmy conditions, How says it'll be an opportune time for the first victory to set things rolling.

"There's a bit more pressure being on TV so we should put on a good spectacle."

With the Auckland Aces setting the standards in their appearance this year at the lucrative Club Champions League tourney in South Africa, he says CD have slipped off the radar a little bit lately.

"We'll put pressure on ourselves to go the Champions League."

How points out ND are on a roll with three wins from as many matches in the HRV Cup.

"We're going well in the Plunket Shield so we need to transfer that form into the shorter format," he says of CD who are the reigning Ford Trophy one-day champions.

While Noema-Barnett and leg spinner Tarun Nethula (shoulder injury) will be big losses, How feels it's a chance for Kain and Patel to step up as spinners.

Trego is "going well" although CD don't want to risk him too much after he hobbled off Nelson Park last week with a calf strain in the shield victory over the Otago Volts.

How intends to keep up the standards rookie captain Noema-Barnett has set this summer.

"There's lots of experience in the team so I don't have to ask the guys to do much because they know their jobs so that makes my job much easier," says the former CD skipper and ex-Black Cap.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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