05

This question had always bothered me, but I decided to write about it on the birthday of Xenophon ‘Xen’ Balaskas, the first international cricketer whose name started with X. While that bit is known (thanks to a serious dearth of names beginning with X — how I wish there was a Xerxes!), but what about other letters? We all know Charles Bannerman played the first Test and all that, which solves the problem for C, but what about A or P, or any other letter? Was X the last letter of the alphabet to make an entry when it comes to first names? This certainly merited investigation…

The first Test, of course, accounted for a lot of names. In fact, there were 5 men whose names started with J: three Johns (‘Jack’ Blackham, Hodges, and Selby) and two James’s (Lillywhite Jr and Southerton), while the T-brigade consisted of an army of 5 Toms — Garrett, Horan, Kendall, Armitage, and Emmett. There were also three A’s, but there is a table for the other letters.

Of course, 22 men could not have taken care of 26 letters (what with all these repetitions), so I had to move on to the next Test — but before that, let me state the condition I had set: I took into consideration only the full names. So, even if Lord Harris appeared under that name on scorecards I went with George Robert Canning Harris. The same adjustment happened with nicknames, which meant that Ned Gregory was registered as Edward Gregory on the list.

The 1870s took care of all the common letters. Ivo Bligh solved a major concern in 1882, as did Owen Dunell in 1889. I pondered with KS (Kumar Shri) Ranjitsinhji for a while: while he is KS on all scorecards, he was really born Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji (Ranjitsinhji, actually, but that is a long story, and this article is really not the best place for that), and ended up being His Highness Jam Saheb Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar, with a detour of Kumar Shri.

So K had to wait till Kenneth Hutchings in 1907. Two South Africans — Quintin McMillan and Xen Balaskas (to whom this article is dedicated) — solved two major problems in 1929 and 1930 respectively, but unfortunately that was not the end of that. I was still left with U, Y, and Z.

Yuvraj of Patiala came to my rescue in 1934. While Yuvraj is also a title, his real name was Yadavindrasingh, which takes care of the scenario. Trust the royal family to come up with something as foolproof as that!

Z took surprisingly long — till 1952, in fact — when Zulfiqar Ahmed came along, but I was still left with U, easily the dark horse of the lot. Little did the Indian selectors know what they did for cricket fraternity when they handed out Umesh Kulkarni his Test cap in 1967…

Letters of the English alphabet and first Test cricketers whose name started with the letters

Letter

Name

Country

Debut date

A

Andrew Greenwood

England

March 15, 1877

Allen Hill

England

March 15, 1877

Alfred Shaw

England

March 15, 1877

B

Bransby Cooper

Australia

March 15, 1877

C

Charles Bannerman

Australia

March 15, 1877

D

Dave Gregory

Australia

March 15, 1877

E

Edward ‘Ned’ Gregory

Australia

March 15, 1877

F

Fred Spofforth

Australia

March 31, 1877

G

George Ulyett

England

March 15, 1877

H

Harry Charlwood

England

March 15, 1877

Harry Jupp

England

March 15, 1877

I

Ivo Bligh

England

December 30, 1882

J

John ‘Jack’ Blackham

Australia

March 15, 1877

John Hodges

Australia

March 15, 1877

James Lillywhite Jr

England

March 15, 1877

John Selby

England

March 15, 1877

James Southerton

England

March 15, 1877

K

Kenneth Hutchings

England

December 13, 1907

L

Leland Hone

England

January 2, 1879

M

Mordecai Sherwin

England

January 28, 1887

N

Nat Thomson

Australia

March 15, 1877

O

Owen Dunell

South Africa

March 12, 1889

P

Percy McDonnell

Australia

September 6, 1880

Q

Quintin McMillan

South Africa

June 19, 1929

R

Richard ‘Dick’ Barlow

England

December 31, 1881

Richard ‘Dick’ Pilling

England

December 31, 1881

S

Sandford Schultz

England

January 2, 1879

T

Tom Garrett

Australia

March 15, 1877

Tom Horan

Australia

March 15, 1877

Tom Kendall

Australia

March 15, 1877

Tom Armitage

England

March 15, 1877

Tom Emmett

England

March 15, 1877

U

Umesh Kulkarni

India

December 23, 1967

V

Vernon Royle

England

January 2, 1879

W

William ‘Billy’ Midwinter

Australia

March 15, 1877

X

Xen Balaskas

South Africa

December 24, 1930

Y

Yadavindrasingh

India

February 10, 1934

Z

Zulfiqar Ahmed

Pakistan

October 23, 1952

This meant that the set was complete by the time the first ODI was played. Of course, this was a temptation for me to work on the corresponding ODI list as well. In fact, I had compiled this before, but I had never actually had an online version.

As expected, the first ODI took care of a chunk, but I was still left with some. Thankfully, most were taken care of by the time the first World Cup came along. ICC’s decision to include East Africa meant that Yunus Badat and Zulfiqar Ali filled up two slots, but I was still left with O, Q, and X.

The 1970s went by. Qasim Umar came to my aid in 1973 and Omar Henry in 1992, but what about X? One series went by as I waited for a Xerxes (or Xerox or X-Ray or whatever, even Xylophone or Xenophobia) to turn up…

Then my messiah turned up as late as in 2005 — in the form of Xavier Marshall.

Letters of the English alphabet and first ODI cricketers whose name started with the letters

Letter

Name

Country

Debut date

A

Alan Connolly

Australia

January 5, 1971

Ashley Mallett

Australia

January 5, 1971

Alan Thomson

Australia

January 5, 1971

Alan Knott

England

January 5, 1971

B

Basil D’Oliveira

England

January 5, 1971

C

Chris Old

England

September 5, 1973

D

Dennis Amiss

England

August 24, 1972

Dennis Brian Close

England

August 24, 1972

E

Eknath Solkar

India

July 13, 1974

F

Frank Hayes

England

July 18, 1973

G

Greg Chappell

Australia

January 5, 1971

Graham McKenzie

Australia

January 5, 1971

Geoff Boycott

England

January 5, 1971

H

Hedley Howarth

New Zealand

February 11, 1973

I

Ian Chappell

Australia

January 5, 1971

Ian Redpath

Australia

January 5, 1971

J

John Edrich

England

January 5, 1971

John Hampshire

England

January 5, 1971

John Snow

England

January 5, 1971

K

Keith Stackpole

Australia

January 5, 1971

Kevin Doug Walters

Australia

January 5, 1971

Keith Fletcher

England

January 5, 1971

Ken Shuttleworth

England

January 5, 1971

L

Lance Gibbs

West Indies

September 5, 1973

M

Michael Colin Cowdrey

England

January 5, 1971

N

Nasim-ul-Ghani

Pakistan

February 11, 1973

O

Omar Henry

South Africa

March 2, 1992

P

Peter Lever

England

January 5, 1971

Q

Qasim Umar

Pakistan

September 10, 1983

R

Rod Marsh

Australia

January 5, 1971

Ray Illingworth

England

January 5, 1971

S

Sadiq Mohammad

Pakistan

February 11, 1973

Saleem Altaf

Pakistan

February 11, 1973

Sarfraz Nawaz

Pakistan

February 11, 1973

T

Terry Jenner

Australia

January 1, 1975

U

Upul Chandika Hathurusingha

Sri Lanka

February 22, 1991

V

Vic Pollard

New Zealand

July 18, 1973

W

William ‘Bill’ Lawry

Australia

January 5, 1971

X

Xavier Marshall

West Indies

January 14, 2005

Y

Yunus Badat

East Africa

June 11, 1975

Z

Zulfiqar Ali

East Africa

June 7, 1975

Marshall made his ODI debut just over a month before the first T20I. This, of course, compelled me to compile a similar list for T20Is.

Letters of the English alphabet and first T20I cricketers whose name started with the letters

The world of T20I cricket is more diverse, which is why the letters were taken care of quickly. Help came from all corners — Ed Joyce, Farhad Reza, Nathan Astle and Nicky Boje, Owais Shah, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Umar Gul, Younis Khan, Zaheer Khan…

By the time the first World T20 started I was left with only Q and X. Xavier Marshall came to my rescue again, in 2008, making him the first to achieve this ‘feat’ in multiple formats. It would not have mattered, for Xavier Doherty arrived shortly afterwards.

But the days of Quintin McMillan and Qasim Umar were gone. It was not until the second decade, that too, in 2012 — that Quinton de Kock came along.

Letter

Name

Country

Debut date

A

Adam Gilchrist

Australia

February 17, 2005

Andrew Symonds

Australia

February 17, 2005

Andre Adams

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

B

Brett Lee

Australia

February 17, 2005

Brendon McCullum

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

C

Chris Cairns

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

Craig McMillan

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

D

Damien Martyn

Australia

February 17, 2005

Daryl Tuffey

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

E

Ed Joyce

England

June 15, 2006

F

Farhad Reza

Bangladesh

November 28, 2006

G

Glenn McGrath

Australia

February 17, 2005

H

Hamish Marshall

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

I

Ian Bradshaw

West Indies

February 16, 2006

J

James Hopes

Australia

February 17, 2005

Jeff Wilson

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

K

Kyle Mills

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

L

Lou Vincent

New Zealand

February 16, 2006

M

Michael Clarke

Australia

February 17, 2005

Michael Hussey

Australia

February 17, 2005

Michael Kasprowicz

Australia

February 17, 2005

Mathew Sinclair

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

N

Nathan Astle

New Zealand

June 21, 2005

Nicky Boje

South Africa

June 21, 2005

O

Owais Shah

England

June 28, 2007

P

Paul Collingwood

England

June 13, 2005

Q

Quinton de Kock

South Africa

December 21, 2012

R

Ricky Ponting

Australia

February 17, 2005

S

Simon Katich

Australia

February 17, 2005

Stephen Fleming

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

Scott Styris

New Zealand

February 17, 2005

T

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Sri Lanka

June 15, 2006

U

Umar Gul

Pakistan

September 4, 2007

V

Vikram Solanki

England

June 13, 2005

W

Wavell Hinds

West Indies

February 16, 2006

X

Xavier Marshall

West Indies

June 20, 2008

Y

Younis Khan

Pakistan

August 28, 2006

Z

Zaheer Khan

India

December 1, 2006

Now that we are all settled, I suppose we can wait safely for the fourth format to arrive in the sport we love so much.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)