David Leggat: Support Black Caps? I'd rather back NZ

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Two years ago at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a group of New Zealanders wore shirts emblazoned with a term designed to show their support for the national badminton team.

The shirts carried the slogan "Go Black Cocks". Now before anyone reaches for the computer and taps in:

"The Editor, New Zealand Herald, Dear Sir, I wish to complain ..." a spot of clarification is required.

The small feathered thing belted over the net in badminton is a shuttlecock, hence the nickname. It didn't last, which could not be said for the term "Black Caps".

At Dunedin in last week's first test against the West Indies, and again in Napier yesterday, a foreign visitor would have looked at the scoreboard and assumed the West Indies were playing a country called Black Caps.

Once upon a time, there was a fad for nicknames. Just being called the New Zealand basketball/cricket/hockey/netball/softball, etc, etc team wasn't enough.

Everyone jumped on board.

So you've got the Silver Ferns (netball), the Black Sticks (hockey), the Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks (basketball), the White and Black Sox (softball), Black Jacks (bowls), the White Ferns (women's cricket), the Ice Blacks (ice hockey) and so on.

Some have a better ring to them than others.

"Black Caps" has been upon us since the late 1990s. Some monikers grow on you. Black Caps, personally speaking, does not.

What's wrong with being called the New Zealand cricket team? Got that? NEW ZEALAND cricket team.

The other day in a conversation with New Zealand seamer Iain O'Brien, he spoke of what it means to be known as a test cricketer.

"Every day is a dream come true. To call myself a test cricketer is pretty cool," he said.

And I'll bet if he was asked how he wanted to be known, it would be as a New Zealand test cricketer, not a Black Caps cricketer. To be fair, most of his teammates most likely privately feel the same.

In another time, if you wore a black cap you were passing the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime. Those with a mischievous mind might suggest there have been times when putting the big sleep on the Black Caps was not a bad idea.

Australia's national teams have a variety of nicknames - Joeys, Boomers, Kangaroos, Wallabies and so on. Like all these cute titles, some stick, others stink.

Several years ago, some smart marketing type, who probably didn't know the difference between a cover drive and a googly, reckoned it would be a neat idea to rename Australia's best known - if not always best loved - national team.

The captain of that particular team at the time was Steve Waugh. A man who wore his baggy green cap with massive pride, he had a predictably pitchy view. What's wrong with the Australian cricket team? Quite so.

We have the All Whites, who have been with us since New Zealand soccer's finest days, qualifying for the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Everyone knows who the Kiwis are, and then there's the grand-daddy of the lot - the All Blacks.

We're only talking national teams here. You have a franchise, you call it what you like.

New Zealand Breakers? Fine. Wellington Phoenix? No problem.

One newspaper has taken to trimming the cricketers to the "Caps".

You want a catchy name for your sports team, beware leaving yourself open to mickey-taking.

Just ask the badminton folk.

- NZ Herald

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