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Behind the jersey is a figure and a story

Some professions are linked with numbers. But, is there any job that is more associated with numbers than professional sports? No number defines sportsmen more than the one on the back of their jerseys, Rohit Bhaskar reports. Numbers game

india Updated: Apr 27, 2013 02:13 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
Formerly-a-footballer-Dhoni-s-number-is-a-tribute-to-Manchester-United-legends-from-George-Best-to-Eric-Cantona-and-C-Ron( )

Some professions are linked with numbers. Accountants and bankers top that list.

But, is there any job that is more associated with numbers than professional sports?

Batting averages, points per game, winning percentage, goals-per-game, they are all numbers that define sportsmen. But, no number defines sportsmen more than the one on the back of their jerseys.

The number 23 is synonymous with sporting excellence.

It belonged to Michael Jordan after all, the greatest basketball player of all time. It has since been adopted by David Beckham and Shane Warne, among others, as a mark of respect to the Chicago Bulls legend.

Almost as famous is the reason for that number.

Before he became the 6'6 symbol of basketball excellence, Jordan was a 6'2 high school sophomore who was cut from his varsity team.

He chose the number 23 because it was almost half of 45, the number his elder brother wore.

Jordan just wanted to be half as good as him… he became twice as good as anyone to lace up a pair of sneakers!

Football has its own list of mythical numbers, none more so than 10 — the number that adorned the jersey of Pele, Diego Maradona and almost every great footballer who has followed since.

The reasons
But, what are the reasons behind the jersey numbers of your favourite T20 stars? For some it’s football.

MS Dhoni was a goalkeeper before he became India's most successful captain.

His jersey number, 7, is also inspired from his favourite football team, Manchester United, and has been worn by the club's talismanic figures from George Best through Eric Cantona down to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Such is Dhoni's affinity with the number he's even launched a range of signature perfumes with that number, "7 by MS Dhoni".

It's personal
For others the reasons are linked to personal landmarks.

Chris Gayle may induce the fear of the devil in opposition bowlers, but his jersey number isn't 333 because it's half the number of the devil. It's actually his highest Test score.

While his RCB teammate Muttiah Muralitharan's jersey number 800 is the number of Test wickets he has taken.

Another RCB player, Vijay Zol, has the number 451, his best score in an age-group cricket match.

In Yusuf Pathan's case 999 isn't his highest score nor is it the number of wickets he's taken.

Then why did the KKR hard-hitter go with that number? The reason, as he explained to HT, is far simpler.

He wanted to take the number 9 but it was already taken.

Then he asked for number 18 which adds up to 9 but that wasn't available either. He then chose to do something completely out of the box and went for 999 which again adds up to 9.

Number by birth
Delhi Daredevils and India speedster Umesh Yadav's reason for picking jersey number 87 is far simpler, it was the year of his birth, 1987.

For others like KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir it's the actual birthday.

Born on October 14, Gambhir told HT he wears the number 5 because his birthday numbers add up to 5. He has also occasionally worn 14, which is the same as his birthdate.

That sixties show
Delhi Daredevils pacer Morne Morkel's number is a reminder of his height, minus one apostrophe, of course.

The 6'5 bowler wears jersey number 65. The Daredevils’ Goolam Bodi and Sunrisers Hyderabad's Dwarka Ravi Teja are the only players to opt for that most carnal of numbers — 69.

While we don’t know the reasons for this choice, we’ll leave it to your imagination. Just don’t get carried away!

No number wonder
It's difficult to put a number on the value Virender Sehwag brings to a team, which partly explains why the dashing Delhi Daredevils opener is the only player who doesn't have a number on the back of his jersey.

The real reason, according to those close to him, has something to do with a superstitious belief.

Well, as long as he has a 100 beside his name on the scoreboard, no one will bother about the number on the back of his jersey!

First Published: Apr 27, 2013 01:03 IST

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