Celebration in cricket has changed through the centuries. Once upon a time, players didn’t get elated when they took wickets, scored centuries or even won matches.
But there were exceptions back then. When WG Grace scored his 100th century in May 1895, his brother EM Grace came down to the crease with a bottle of champagne.
Then, two hours later, EM went down again with another bottle to celebrate the double-hundred. Fortunately for Bristol’s champagne supplies, he got out on 288.
Cricketers used to maintain decorum thoroughly back in the days. Even the dreaded Body-line series didn’t have any elated celebrations by the bowlers of England.
When Jim Laker took 19 wickets at Old Trafford in 1956, he didn’t celebrate much at all.
He explained nearly three decades later in Cricket Contrasts: “There were no leaps in the air, no embraces, no punching the sky, just a dozen polite handshakes as I slung my sweater over one shoulder and jogged quietly up the pavilion steps.”
Afterwards, Laker entered a pub in Lichfield, and bought “a couple of very stale cheese sandwiches” and a beer. He sat in the bar and watched highlights of the Test on a black and white TV, “listening in fascination to the comments of the other customers”.
He didn’t get any congratulations because no one recognized him. But almost 50 years later, the Trafalgar Square celebrations for England’s 2005 Ashes victory, and people couldn’t stop celebrating!
When Fred Trueman took 300th Test wicket as the first bowler in history at The Oval in 1964, by having Neil Hawke caught at slip by Colin Cowdrey, the fielder appeared as relieved as the bowler.
Trueman was nearing the end of his career, wickets were getting harder to come by, and there would have been hell to pay had he dropped it.
But still, there wasn’t any celebration. Trueman barely broke stride as he shook the outstretched hand of the outgoing batsman.
But the trend of celebrations changed a lot over the years. It’s hard to pick a turning point. The final over of the tied Test between Australia and West Indies at Brisbane in 1960-61 can be thought of as a turning point.
When Richie Benaud got caught behind off the second ball of the final over, only wicketkeeper Gerry Alexander looked at all pleased.
And when Wally Grout pushing for a third run that would have brought Australia victory, Conrad Hunte ran him out, the West Indians made little fuss: Wes Hall returned to his mark as if it was another day at the office.
It was only when Joey Solomon ran out Ian Meckiff that bedlam ensured. A cliffhanger was the necessary push required to excite the players.
One of the reasons why celebrations were less prominent in cricket was because cricket has more rules than most other games No one wanted to break ranks and give full expression to their joy.
The 1970s also saw moderate celebrations in the field, including Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson’s demolition of England. Thomson lazily put one arm – sometimes two – in the air and walks diffidently towards the slips.
The great West Indian pacemen were similar to the Aussies. Michael Holding would merely check if the umpire had given the correct decision and then he would jog towards his fellow West Indians.
Joel Garner seldom raised an arm. Taking wickets weren’t too hard for them. May be that’s why they didn’t celebrate much. The cricket may have been terrifying, but the celebrations were not wild.
Experts said that it was a sign of respect for opponents, but that was misguided. You can respect your opponents and at the same time get excited: there is no contradiction.
The closest to a genuine celebration had been Derek Randall doing a cartwheel after taking the winning catch in the same game.The captain Mike Brearley said, “It is something I had been coaxing him to do at some opportune moment throughout the series,”
The captain further said,”He had been afraid of both the selectors’ and the public’s opinion but now, at the most opportune time, he had done it.”
The 1981 Ashes was pivotal in changing the ways of celebration. Bob Willis ran around in a delirious little circle after bowling Ray Bright to win the Headingley Test.
Also, Ian Botham racing down the wicket and pulling out a stump after bowling Terry Alderman to win the Edgbaston Test was another instance of excited celebrations.
For Indians, the best memory of celebration was when they won the 1983 World Cup. Certainly it was in the early 1980s that the celebrations styles finally changed.
Celebrations have become even more elaborate as days go by. Batsmen kiss the turf or the badge on their helmet or the crest on their shirt. We’ve had bowlers celebrating their success with fist-pumps and high-fives with their teammates.
We’ve had Monty Panesar’s ingenuous skips and leaps, and Indian seamer Sreesanth twirling his bat round his head like a cowboy with a lasso after hitting South Africa’s Andre Nel for a straight six. The Gangnam style of West Indies was a talk of the whole cricketing world.
Tamim’s gesture to the scorer to put his name on the Honors board of Lord’s was a classic. Tamim has also done another monumental celebration signaling 4 consecutive half centuries in Asia Cup when he was dropped from the team in a heated controversy that even involved the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
We’ve seen the Tiger dance of 2007 ICC World Cup. The chest bump celebration between Taskin and Mashrafe is favorite to all the tiger fans.
It signifies the bond in the team and ushers in a new era of fast bowlers. It signals that Mashrafe is the guardian and players like Taskin are learning from the best Bangladesh has to offer.
Celebrations are an integral part of play and we can definitely hope to see more innovative celebrations in the coming years.