Longest and most tongue-twisting names in tennis and cricket: Guest Column by Kersi Meher-Homji
As you switch TV channels watching French Open tennis and cricket’s ICC Champions Trophy this
fortnight, you need something to keep your eyes open during boring moments.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios beating Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber
on the second day of the French Open tennis set me thinking. Is Philipp Kohlschreiber (20 letters
counting first name and surname) the longest and most unpronounceable name in tennis history?
He beats Nicola Pietrangeli (17 letters) of Italy and Goran Ivanisevic (15 letters) of Croatia easily in
length. But Philipp has a long way to reach their high standard in tennis grand slams.
Pietrangeli won two singles titles at the French Championships and is considered by many to be Italy’s
greatest-ever tennis champion before he retired 1973. Ivanisevic (pronounced by me as “Ivan is a
witch”) is the only player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon as a wildcard.
But their name length is dwarfed by a Thailand tennis player Vorranavaporn
Vorrarattanamongkol (32 letters). Is this a record in “longevity”? I am not sure. Can
readers please help out?
When it comes to hard to pronounce surnames, South Africa’s seam bowling cricket all-
rounder Andile Phehlukwayo is up there with the hardest to pronounce list, along with
tennis players Kohlschreiber and Vorrarattanamongkol. My sympathies are with the
I know records in cricket for the longest surnames.
To start with, India has provided a Test cricketer with perhaps the most number of letters (32) for first
name and surname. To name, the well-known off-spinner (156 wickets in 57 Tests) and later
Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan (32 letters).
No wonder he was popularly known as Srini Venkat.
Not far behind is a Very Very Special Test cricketer from India; the elegant, much-adored and highly
respected VVS Laxman.
His full name is Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman (28 letters).
It was Ian Chappell who called him Very Very Special Laxman.
Another Indian, leg-spinner and now a cricket commentator
Laxman Sivaramakrishnan who played nine Tests, has a long surname of 16 letters, among Test
cricketers. Not to forget three Hindu “Gods”; Siva, Rama and Krishnan.
Indian cricketers are hard to beat when it comes to long surnames.
In a Ranji Trophy match between Kerala and Andhra on November 9, 1990 at Visakhapatnam, Andhra
skipper V. Chamundeswaranath was caught K.N.Balasubramaniam bowled K.N.
Anantapadamanabhan for two runs. The total of letters in the three surnames came to 50, not
counting their initials and the match venue! Leading by 74 runs, Andhra forfeited the second innings
and lost by 9 wickets.
The above tongue-twisters pale in comparison to the name of a Fijian cricketer. Scorers and scoreboard
operators were stunned at his 44-letter name:
Sensibly, it was shortened to Bula. The jawbreaker literally means “Returned alive from Navoa Hospital
at Lakemba Island in the Lao group.”
The story is explained in Sports Digest (New Zealand) of March 1973. When Bula was born on 15
November 1921, his grandfather was seriously ill in a hospital. But the news of the arrival of his grandson
so delighted the old man that he threw off his illness and returned home to christen the baby.
Bula took up cricket and toured New Zealand three times and hit centuries in high grade cricket. In 1959,
the 37 year-old hit the then highest score in Fijian cricket. For Queen Victoria School Old Boys against
Samambula, he scored 245 runs out of 485 in only 173 minutes, with 10 fours and 22 sixes. Earlier he
had played nine first-class matches for Fiji between 1947-48 and 1953-54.
Today I checked Bula’s marathon mega surname in another reference book which gave an even longer
Ilikena Lasarusa Talebulamaineiilikenamainavaleniveivakabulaimainakulalakebalau.
The honour of having cricket’s most hyphenated name belongs to England women’s medium pacer
Ebony-Jewel Cora-Lee Camellia Rosamond Rainford-Brent.
The first black woman to play for England, 25 year-old Rainford-Brent was in Sydney in 2009 for the
World Cup final against New Zealand at North Sydney Oval.
A true fighter, Rainford-Brent was once told by doctors she would never play sport again when at 19 she
was diagnosed with two prolapsed discs – having also suffered a bad back injury four years earlier. She
was forced to take a year off but fought her way back into the national team in 2007.
According to Jamie Pandaram in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 March 2009, “Rainford-Brent is the
youngest of four children, and the only girl. The story goes that the whole family argued over what her
name should be, so they decided to use everyone’s suggestions.”
I hope the knowledgeable readers of Cricket Writer will add to my list.