A sporstman’s celebrations are a necessary part of his armory for some fans, and Pakistanis are particularly finicky when it comes to such things. I think that one of the reasons Junaid Khan is so underrated within his own country is because his celebrations are so over-the-top and uncoordinated.
Of course, we appreciate over-the-top losing-yourself-in-the-moment celebrations, but they have to be for a particular moment. We grew up to Wasim and Waqar, and then Shoaib, three of the greatest celebrators in modern cricket. Personal favourites include Wasim taking Moin down in ’92, Waqar doing to Jadeja what a Lahori launda does to a girl walking on the footpath, and Akhtar on his knees.
Outside of Pakistani cricket, the greatest celebrations remained with the West Indies. I believe that at least a third of Ambrose and Walsh’s fan bases developed just based on their post wicket celebrations. But the West Indies have not had much to celebrate in the past decade. Or they didn’t until the 2012 World T20s, where they set a new benchmark in how to celebrate winning. And then yesterday they topped it.
Some context first – both teams basically needed to win this game to keep their destinies in their own hands in the tournament. The match see-sawed, as a delightful many have done in this tournament, until the final act – Samuels fell with Windies needing 49 off 21, and in walked the West Indian captain. He scored 34 off 13 – now THAT’s finishing. More importantly the West Indies needed 12 off the last 4 after James Faulkner had bowled two dot balls to start the final over; the same James Faulkner who had “needled” the West Indies before the match.
Even in the era of clichés and the giving-nothing-away lexicon that sportsmen specialize in, sometimes the truth gets out, and we get to see sport as it supposed to be: on the edge, uber-competitive, and all the other stuff in an Al Pacino halftime speech. But that was secondary to what happened afterwards.
If you have ever played cricket or football at even the most basic levels you have had that feeling. Sometimes the moment you hit the ball you know that there is nothing in the world that’s stopping that shot. Obviously, Darren Sammy had that feeling. One of my favourite things about the Javed Miandad six is that he is running down the pitch almost before he has hit that shot. Darren Sammy did similar yesterday. By the time the ball crosses the boundary rope Sammy was close enough to the square leg umpire to have hit him with his bat. But of course he didn’t have his bat; the battle was won, there was no need for his sword, the beast had been slain. Footballers take their shirts off when they score a goal, Darren Sammy throws his bat, because Darren Sammy is better than footballers. Darren Sammy is the reincarnation of Jules Winnfield. Darren Sammy is not the West Indian Shoaib Malik anymore, now he’s a killer.
I am a late jumper on the Darren Sammy bandwagon. I always believed that a guy who didn’t deserve to be in the West Indies team in two of the three formats shouldn’t have been the captain. It started changing around the 2011 World Cup. The more you saw of Sammy, the more you saw of him interact with his players and the press, the more you realized that he was the king of intangibles. The little things, like playing with joy and perspective, matter – and as England have shown in the recent past, likability is an important asset in keeping everyone together when a team starts losing. And over the past six months, Sammy has become one of the best lower order hitters in the world. While the sample size may be small, his numbers in both ODI cricket and T20s are genuinely impressive. More importantly, of the seven innings he’s played batting second in this period, he has been dismissed only once in all of them. Darren Sammy has learnt how to chase, and that’s why it was such a surprise that the West Indies took till the 17th over to get him out to bat. Right now, Sammy is the key to all Windies chases – he’s developed the killer instinct, without losing his smile. All hail Darren Sammy.
Chris Gayle doesn’t show emotion; this is something we are told ad nauseam. Much like Inzamam, Misbah or Dhoni, the idea that a sportsman can bottle up his emotions is sometimes considered noteworthy enough to be mentioned in every single match by the commentators. Added to his issues with the WICB and his role as the first freelance cricketer and the image often gets across that this is a man more interested in his score and balance sheet than in the results that his teams achieve. But he’s a competitive man, like every other alpha male. You don’t stay in international cricket for a decade based on just talent (unless you are Imran Nazir or Mohammad Sami), you need a bit of a mongrel about you; you need to have an ego and a willingness to fight. You don’t take on the Aussies of the mid noughties singlehandedly if you don’t have something within you. And while Chris Gayle’s tendencies may have dulled by hitting random medium pacers around the world for two bob a hit, they are still in there, ready to be woken up. And several days of questioning over his Striker Rate and the comments by James Faulkner woke them up. Gayle played his best T20 innings since the last time he played Australia in the World T20 set the game up for Sammy’s heroics later on. But the worth of this match to him wasn’t made clear till it finished.
In the space of twelve months, the Gangnam dance went from being an internet in-joke to the most overused step done by desi uncles in Pakistani mehndis. Through all of this Chris Gayle kept it going, trying to make it his trademark. Even when the dance had jumped the shark, the whale and half the plankton in the sea Gayle kept at it thinking it was still cool. It was all worth it though, for what he did yesterday. The Gangnam is a happy, almost sarcastic and carefree dance. Yesterday Chris Gayle was none of those things; yet he still felt compelled to do the thing that he had trademarked, and thus we were introduced to Gangnam 2.0: the Angry Gangnam. While the original seemed like a reenactment of riding a horse through a meadow, the new version is mime of a grown man twisting and breaking a baby’s legs. Chris Gayle could have murdered a man yesterday, and his stare towards Brad Hodge could have been the beginning of that. Have you ever been so relieved at the end of the match that you wanted to kill someone?
And finally you have Dwayne Bravo. In tennis and football it is quite common for the crowd to be involved in the celebrations. Cricket, on the other hand, treats its witnesses as the lower class. In cricket spectators are always separate. Then Bravo intervened. Of course if this was Gaddafi his gloves would have still landed about 20 yards short of the fans, but thankfully this was Mirpur. It doesn’t matter if they reached the fans, or who got them, what matters is that for once the audience was part of the celebrations. That is a rarity in cricket. Yesterday Dwayne Bravo threw his gloves into the crowd, Gayle did the Gangnam and Sammy hit a couple of sixes. Just another day.
Thanks to @hamster41 and particularly @TonkeePonkee for the gifs.