October 22, 2009

Fine gestures

In honour of Dave Mohammed's alligator death roll, we take a look at XI unusual celebrations (including another by Mohammed)

The Phone-Shoe
Though it hasn't taken off yet, no celebration has been as bizarre. It is still rare, only occurring on the rare occasion West Indian spinner Dave Mohammed gets a batsman out stumped, whereupon our Dave takes off his shoe and proceeds to talk into it. When asked for an explanation, the Trinidad and Tobago team manager explained, "In the Caribbean if a spinner flights and invites the batsman to step out of the crease and gets him out stumped, it is a huge moment to celebrate. The spinner removes his shoe, behaves as if he is dialing a phone and talking. It is their way of asking: who called you outside the crease?''

The Poseur
This is reserved only for the superstars of the game, men such as Shahid Afridi and Andrew Flintoff who change games; else it looks silly. Upon taking a wicket, said superstar bowler will run to wherever cameramen can get the best angle (and wherever the wind is best for his hair, in Afridi's case) stand up straight, stick his chest and behind out, raise one arm or both and lap up the acclaim, applause and love. And then see it all again in all its glory in the next day's papers.

The Assumption
Pioneered by Glenn McGrath, this consists of celebrating an lbw verdict before the umpire has actually given one. In fact, McGrath used to run on without even looking back at the umpire. Once a fine bluff, it can now lead to punishment, as Stuart Broad, who is trying to revive the genre, is sure to testify sooner rather than later.

The "You-can't-see-me"
For those bowlers bored by the airplane, there is this. Favoured by West Indians, particularly Fidel Edwards, Jerome Taylor and Dwayne Bravo, the idea is to wave your fingers in front of your face as if wielding a Chinese fan. Its origin is traced back to that other cerebral sport, the WWE, where John Cena, world champion and now thespian, patented the move.

The Rocking Baby
Packed schedules and hectic travel mean the modern cricketer has less and less time to spend with family each year, so it is only natural that he remembers them during his personal highs. The Bangladesh team first unveiled this particular celebration, during the 2007 World Cup, where they all started rocking an imaginary baby as the winning runs were hit, to celebrate a team-mate's becoming a father. Corey Collymore, when not "you-can't-see-me-ing," tried this as well, but it was last seen when Kamran Akmal reached a century against Australia earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, where he did it to celebrate the birth of his daughter. History records Bebeto, the diminutive Brazilian striker who wasn't Romario at the 1994 football World Cup, as having started it. Not as popular as expected since it first appeared, but sends out all the right messages, and no doubt will gain popularity.

The Bow
A rare, unique fielding celebration, started by Robin Uthappa (and practised only by Robin Uthappa). When Uthappa takes a catch (or hits the stumps in a bowl-out, as he did at the World Twenty20 in 2007 against Pakistan) he turns to the crowd, takes his cap off and bows elaborately, as if responding to calls of encore only he can hear, but actually just showing off ever more resplendent hairstyles. Now that he isn't in the Indian side, though, perhaps taking catches is not so much fun. And the hairstyles not so resplendent.

The Sajda
Preferred by Pakistan's mostly Muslim team, this is a religious acknowledgment that became popular under Inzamam-ul-Haq, though it had been seen before then. After scoring a hundred, the batsman kneels and touches his forehead to the ground, as is the practice in Muslim prayer. Seen also after Pakistan's two World triumphs in 1992 and 2009. Before he became Muslim, Yousuf Youhana, Christian then, used to cross himself when he reached hundred - as did Matthew Hayden when he got to a landmark.

The Airplane
This one has become the default celebration for bowlers. Upon taking a wicket, the bowler runs, arms outstretched like wings, towards fielders, or away from them, towards the crowds. Popular with Shoaib Akhtar, and Chaminda Vaas in his prime, easy to replicate and can be done without permission from air-traffic controllers.

The Chicken Dance
Ireland's giant-killing run in the 2007 World Cup regularly featured the sight of their players launching into a striking routine, where they flapped their arms like chickens. Shoaib has been known to perform a variant, usually when Kevin Pietersen is around.

The Chainsaw
Brett Lee often pretends after taking a wicket that he needs to cut down some trees. Duly he goes through the motions of pulling the ignition cord to something that exists in his head. Sreesanth has taken to imitating the move in recent times, but it hasn't really taken off elsewhere.

The Younis
A category unto himself is Younis Khan. Three ODI hundreds last year brought about three different celebrations. Once he bench-pressed his bat, in reference to the Pakistan team trainer David Dwyer's efforts. He did some press-ups when he reached another, again a nod to Dwyer's training regimes. The third was the most oblique - pulling out a handwritten note from his pocket upon reaching the century and showing it to the camera: "Moti I miss you," it said. Was it public acknowledgement of a secret love? Was it his wife, offspring, brother, family, dear friend? Nope, it was fielding coach Mohtashim Rasheed, who had recently been relieved of his duties.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo