Growing up, as a cricket fan, ‘Nelson’ was a term we all were bombarded with, by the commentators, every time the score read 111 (or multiples of 111). But what does it really imply? And why is it called Nelson, of all the things? Today, we learn the answers to all these questions.
What is Nelson?
Nelson is a terminology - or rather a superstition - used by the commentators in cricket, every time the scoreboard reads 111 or multiples of 111 (222, 333, 444). Nelson is generally considered to be an unlucky number for batsmen, with the superstition being that the chances of a wicket falling either on Nelson or multiples of Nelson are extremely high. While there has been no statistical evidence to back-up this claim, it has become a mythical legend of sorts and thus over the years, Nelson has been seen as a cursed number for the batting side. Thus, commentators tend to stress on the ‘Nelson’ part whenever a batting team gets to the score, almost warning the viewers that a wicket - or some sort of bad luck - might be in the offing.
Who is Nelson and how did the term originate?
It remains unknown when and who associated the term with cricket, but the name Nelson comes after Admiral Nelson (Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson), who allegedly only had "One Eye, One Arm, One Leg" near the end of his life, after getting wounded in a combat in Corsica at the age of 36. Thus, the ‘one-one-one’ has been directly associated with the score of the batting team (111), making it a Nelson. Interestingly, though, many people, over the years,have claimed that the fact of Nelson losing his leg is indeed false. Irrespective of the factual discrepancies, the legend of the term ‘Nelson’ has continued to live in cricket.
How did Nelson become famous?
Being passed on from one generation to the next by the commentators, the term ‘Nelson’ found a permanent place in the sport of cricket, but post the 90s, it was legendary umpire David Shepherd who made the term famous with his actions. The late English Umpire, who passed away in 2009, raised a leg (or sometimes both his legs) every time the score read 111, in an attempt to shoo away the evil forces that come along with the number (or term). In other words, he did it to avoid ill fate. This uncanny, weird and funny practice from Shepherd soon became famous and with time, crowds started cheering for and dancing alongside the English umpire whenever the score read 111.
Has the voodoo around the term died?
Interestingly, the myth and the superstition surrounding Nelson continues to live on, till date, and the commentators tend to acknowledge it whenever the score reaches 111. In fact, 222 and 333 (multiples of Nelson) also have their own terminologies and are known as double Nelson and triple Nelson. Post the demise of Shepherd, though, there hasn’t been any umpire or player who has carried over the gesture (of raising the leg), but everyone present on and off the field somehow tend to slyly acknowledge the presence of Nelson every time a batting side gets to the number.
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