A few days ago, South African spinner Tabraiz Shamsi sent cricket fans into a tizzy with his magic-trick celebration during a domestic league in South Africa. He took out a piece of cloth from his pocket, waved and turned it into a magic stick, leaving everyone awestruck. For years, ‘celebrating success’ — after taking a wicket, scoring a ton or winning the match — was either by a customary handshake, a few claps or a pat on the shoulder. Former Indian cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi vouches for that. “During my era, celebrations were only confined to handshake and claps,” he recounts. But on-field celebration is undergoing a phenomenal evolution as players give theirs a different, unique spin. In the mid-2000s, Australia’s Bret Lee’s ‘chainsaw’ and Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar’s ‘flying’ celebrations were among the famous styles that had caught the attention of cricket fans world over.
More recently, Kesrick Williams’ ‘notebook’ celebration has come to be one of the most popular styles of celebrations in vogue. Once the West Indies bowler dismisses a batsman, he celebrates the dismissal by drawing an imaginary long tick on his palm, as if adding the name of the batsman to the list of those whom he’s dismissed.
With Virat Kohli’s recent ‘return’ gesture after he hit Williams for a six during the opening Twenty20 International against the West Indies in Hyderabad last week, the celebratory gesture has got even more popular.
Shaking a leg, in style
South African spinner Imran Tahir’s signature celebratory style — running all over the ground leaving his teammates behind — has set a new benchmark. Sheldon Cottrell embodies sheer enjoyment while playing the game. In one of his earlier interviews to ICC Cricket, Sheldon, a part of the Jamaica Defence Force, had mentioned that his ‘salute’ style of celebration is a reflection of his appreciation not only for his team mates but also his country’s soldiers who’re protecting their nation.
Then, there is Dwayne Bravo’s trademark celebration of the ‘champion dance’, in which he does some almost absolutely smashing moves on field, moves that have gone viral, and not just among cricket lovers. Ask Bravo what makes him move so, he replies, “My celebration style is my love for cricket. My love for music rubs on my game as well. So if someone such as I am, who’s into music, wanted to celebrate, what better than shaking a leg?”
The theatrics of joy
All these fun moves and styles of celebrations have made them the talking point among cricket buffs. Commenting on the styles of celebrations, sports writer and columnist Ayaz Memon ascribes this phenomenon to a player’s background and natural self. “No matter which part of the world the player comes from, if ‘jumping in joy’ is part of his background and celebratory style, then his emotions run high,” explains Ayaz, adding that with the advent of TV in late ’80s, players have become more innovative.
Then referring to how the then-Indian captain Saurav Ganguly ripped off his T to celebrate the team’s victory over England in 2002, Ayaz shares, “Times are changing, so are cultures and, consequently, the world itself. So naturally, players’ ways of celebrating will also change. Now, we can get to see player’s theatrics on television.”
Sure, Shahid Afridi and Shikhar Dhawan’s unique celebration styles — Mr. X celebration and Kabaddi-style celebration, respectively — seem like a reflection of the joy with which they play the game.
Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh however doesn’t believe a player’s on-field celebration necessarily reflects his natural self. “I may come across as an aggressive cricketer on field, but off the field I am a completely different person. My celebrations have nothing to do with my off-the-field personality,” the off spinner says. Will such styles of celebrations make the game more attractive, we ask Bishen Singh Bedi. But he simply replies, “I don’t know!”...