Nelson- A Legendary Myth of Cricket

Myths and superstitions are everywhere in Cricket. For instance, an amazing fact is that, Sachin Tendulkar always wore his left pad first, and still uses the old buckle type pads while Steve Waugh always carried a handkerchief given to him by his late grandfather. Moreover, there are some amazing on-game superstitions also related to Cricket.

It’s always a rush in our veins while watching anyone who is close to his century. The whole world gets nervous whenever they are in “Nervous Ninety” with the batsman. The equivalent superstitious number is 87, or the “Devil’s Number”, and also it’s the “thirteen shy” of 100. Devil’s Number is still very widely known in Australian Cricket. Statistics has shown that more Australian batsmen are, in fact, dismissed on the numbers surrounding 87.

This was popularized by umpire David Shepherd and many other umpires who raised their legs or lifted their heels from the ground every time a team or individual scored 111 or its multiples. It is called “Nelson”, “Double Nelson”, “Triple Nelson” and so on.

Nelson is a piece of cricket slang terminology and superstition which is believed to be named after Lord Nelson. Lord Nelson was born in 1758 and was a British flag officer, famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his leadership, and superior grip of strategy and unconventional tactics, which gave him a number of decisive naval victories.

It is widely believed that the Nelson Number actually comes in accordance with Lord Nelson’s lost eye, and also an arm and a leg during battles. Where the historical fact is that, Lord Nelson died with his full set of lower limbs and an intact left eye during The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He had lost the power of sight in his right eye during the siege of Calvi, Corsica, in 1793 and had his right arm amputated during an expedition to Santa Cruz, Spain, in 1797. Another suggestion is that the number is derived from his three great victories, namely, Copenhagen, Nile & Trafalgar, which gave the sequence, “Won – Won – Won”. It is sometimes also said that he lost “One Eye, One Arm, One Life” during his naval career.

As far as the reason of spreading of origination is concerned, there is an old Gloucestershire superstition that to avoid dismissal on the next ball, the entire team, except the batsman, must have their feet off the ground. Some believe that having no part of your body touching the field brought better luck. Many people also say batsmen are allergic to 111 because it resembles a set of stumps without the bails. In accordance, David Shepherd says: “Nelson’s always been an unlucky number. Whether it’s 111 because of the three stumps, I don’t know. It’s just a tradition in English cricket.” The superstitious behavior of Shepherd started in the Gloucestershire dressing room when he was a player.

This belief is held most strongly in Australian Cricket for losing the 1954-55 Ashes series by 1-3 against England. These were twice dismissed for 111, as they were in the famous Headingley Test of 1981, when Botham made his 149 and Bob Willis then took 8/34. It is also rumored ill-fated for Australia because of the 1994 Sydney test defeat against South Africa. Trying to get a grip over the dominant Aussies back then, and with skipper Kepler Wessels injured and off the field, Hansie Cronje led his team to an unlikely victory. Only by defending, Fanie DeVilliers destructed the Australian team with 10 wickets on that match. The Australians scored 111 while defending 117 on the final day.

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