Very Sticky Wickets

In our continuing effort to bring you news of interesting first names from around the globe (see here and here and here and here), please consider this recent e-mail from an Australian reader named Alex Lasky:

Gents:

I write regarding the effect of names on the performance of those who bear them as discussed in “Freakonomics,” particularly when it comes to black males.

As Americans, I suspect you’re unfamiliar with cricket. But from the mid 1970’s to the late 1980’s the West Indies, a team consisting of mainly black players from various Caribbean countries, were the dominant team in international cricket. During their late 1970’s/early 1980’s heyday they were almost unbeatable, despite strong opposition teams.

I bring them up because during their period of dominance, and in the couple of decades before, their players were famous for having given names reminiscent of the English aristocracy, even though they came from humble socioeconomic backgrounds. Players with given names like Learie, Clyde, Wesley, Everton, Lawrence, Garfield, Charles, Lance, Winston, Desmond, Gordon, Isaac Vivian Alexander, Derek, Clive, Brendan, Augustine, Larry, Roger, Joel, Jeffrey, Alvin, Michael, Malcolm, Sylvester and Courtney were legends of the game. Their dress and bearing off-field reflected this aristocratic nomenclature.

The West Indies dominance gradually faded, until by the 2000’s they were one of the weakest international teams in the top division. What I found interesting was the given names of the players during their highly unsuccessful tour of Australia last season: Shivnarine, Tino, Dwayne (x2), Corey, Chris, Wavell, Brian, Jermaine, Daren, Denesh, Marlon, Ramnaresh, Devon and (I kid you not) Fidel. It’s almost like they’ve given up trying.

I wonder if the “given” names of those 70’s and 80’s teams were in fact given, or adopted in the service of cricket dominance. When I was a kid, I called myself Franco Dubner for a few years, since I was enamored with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris. But it certainly didn’t help me make the NFL.


bhalerao

It is interesting observation, but I am adding some more information on the names.
Some of the names in your list are Indian names - Shivnariane, Ramnaresh. In fact these players are of Indian (subcontinent) origin where their great grandfathers moved within the British colony. They were dark skined but not from African origin or race.
A comprehensive list of Indian names in the West Indies team (and other cricket) for last several decades is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_players_of_Indian_origin_in_national_cricket_teams_of_other_countries#West_Indies

On the other hand there are a lot of successful names (non-Indian) that are/were untraditional:Ritche Richardson, Garry Sobers, Andy Roberts etc.

The decline in West Indies cricket is largely put down to complacency, particularly within the islands.
Check out the opinion of Clive Llyod, one of the best players in Windes history:
http://www.caribbeancricket.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1794
The increase of Indian names in Windies cricket could be attributed to the rise of Indian cricket since 1983. In fact, the WorldCup of Cricket 1983 finals was where India defeated the West Indies. It is likely that 1983 has given inspiration to
West Indians of Indian origin to play more cricket and become a better player as compared to their non-Indian origin compatriots, no?

Read more...

Jeremy.liberius

Perhaps the decline in both Cricket performance and "proper English" names both reflect a reduced cultural influence from England?

Jeremy Cherfas

Never mind about the aristocracy of the West Indies. No fan of Test cricket commentary will ever forget Brian Johnson's immortal line:

"The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willy."

ElSordo

bhalerao: Garry Sobers = Garfield Sobers and Andy Roberts = Anderson Roberts. I always thought those were two of the best examples of British aristocratic names in West Indies cricket.

bhalerao

Elsordo: you are right.

pieterSAN

I think the decline in West Indian cricket has to do economic incentives for athletes in Carribean. Basketball, Soccer and Baseball are a lot more lucrative for these budding athletes and the best athletes end up playing other sports.

I would reckon that the influence of American culture, particularly through sports and music, has probably had an influence in naming patterns in the Carribean. The names are somehow a proxy(?) variable, I suppose.

Issac

Having followed WI Cricket for a number of years it I'm immensely intrigued to read this post.
Is it likely that those aristocratic names are chasing more lucrative sports like Baseball and Basketball? Is there anything else that explains the disapperances of these aristocratic names?
I'd once seen a Harsha Bhogle interview in which Viv Richards had expressed his passion to play for his country and his disgust at anything white. The general flow of his point was that having been supressed by white-skinned people for a number of years, Viv took immense pride in playing for his country with a bunch of similar colored people.
Somewhere I think, the West Indians have subconsiously understood that aristocratic British names demean their own pride and hence have settled for more simpler home-grown names like Jermaine, Tino, Devon , Dwayne and the like.

bhalerao

It is interesting observation, but I am adding some more information on the names.
Some of the names in your list are Indian names - Shivnariane, Ramnaresh. In fact these players are of Indian (subcontinent) origin where their great grandfathers moved within the British colony. They were dark skined but not from African origin or race.
A comprehensive list of Indian names in the West Indies team (and other cricket) for last several decades is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_players_of_Indian_origin_in_national_cricket_teams_of_other_countries#West_Indies

On the other hand there are a lot of successful names (non-Indian) that are/were untraditional:Ritche Richardson, Garry Sobers, Andy Roberts etc.

The decline in West Indies cricket is largely put down to complacency, particularly within the islands.
Check out the opinion of Clive Llyod, one of the best players in Windes history:
http://www.caribbeancricket.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1794
The increase of Indian names in Windies cricket could be attributed to the rise of Indian cricket since 1983. In fact, the WorldCup of Cricket 1983 finals was where India defeated the West Indies. It is likely that 1983 has given inspiration to
West Indians of Indian origin to play more cricket and become a better player as compared to their non-Indian origin compatriots, no?

Read more...

Jeremy.liberius

Perhaps the decline in both Cricket performance and "proper English" names both reflect a reduced cultural influence from England?

Jeremy Cherfas

Never mind about the aristocracy of the West Indies. No fan of Test cricket commentary will ever forget Brian Johnson's immortal line:

"The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willy."

ElSordo

bhalerao: Garry Sobers = Garfield Sobers and Andy Roberts = Anderson Roberts. I always thought those were two of the best examples of British aristocratic names in West Indies cricket.

bhalerao

Elsordo: you are right.

pieterSAN

I think the decline in West Indian cricket has to do economic incentives for athletes in Carribean. Basketball, Soccer and Baseball are a lot more lucrative for these budding athletes and the best athletes end up playing other sports.

I would reckon that the influence of American culture, particularly through sports and music, has probably had an influence in naming patterns in the Carribean. The names are somehow a proxy(?) variable, I suppose.

Issac

Having followed WI Cricket for a number of years it I'm immensely intrigued to read this post.
Is it likely that those aristocratic names are chasing more lucrative sports like Baseball and Basketball? Is there anything else that explains the disapperances of these aristocratic names?
I'd once seen a Harsha Bhogle interview in which Viv Richards had expressed his passion to play for his country and his disgust at anything white. The general flow of his point was that having been supressed by white-skinned people for a number of years, Viv took immense pride in playing for his country with a bunch of similar colored people.
Somewhere I think, the West Indians have subconsiously understood that aristocratic British names demean their own pride and hence have settled for more simpler home-grown names like Jermaine, Tino, Devon , Dwayne and the like.