The other day, I watched a panel discussion, featuring Harsha Bhogle, Javagal Srinath and Kiran More, on the state of sledging in the cricket world. Surprisingly, for a fast bowler, Srinath was quite articulate (and sedate), and one of his points had a ring of sense about it. More people, he said, sledge because cricket is now a televised phenomenon, and it’s all for show. Fast bowlers celebrate gleefully after taking a wicket, each with their own mode of expression, to get the crowds riled and the audiences on their feet.
Srinath suggested that this was a bad thing, recalling that Prasad, his partner-in-crime during the ’90s, only started acting up after that famous incident with Pakistani opener, Aamer Sohail, which added a feeling of inauthenticity to matters. But really, can the game afford to deny its long-suffering bowlers these little moments of delight?
A bowler’s action is almost always unique, and has been developed over time and after much practice. In the more famous cases, a bowler’s celebration is no different: Monty Panesar got a nation behind his bad fielding and questionable batting with his delirious hand-clapping. Brett Lee, crystallizing Australia’s class-less aggression, pumps his fists towards the ground like he’s trying to set off a lawnmower. Shoaib Akhtar, my favorite, spreads his hands out like an airplane and tilts one side and the next as he runs the length of the pitch (to quibble, however, the air imagery conflicts with his nickname, the “Rawalpindi Express,” which is a train, I believe).
I would suggest that these expressions of jubilation, far from being affected (though not completely spontaneous), toss the game, ever so slightly and only fleetingly, back to the bowler, who should enjoy his moment of spotlight in peace. If anything, in fact, in this era of 400+ scores in ODIs and four-runs-an-over in Tests, bowlers may look and act more aggressive simply because they have so much less to be sanguine about. Desperation, however, never looked this good.