This article was originally published on All Out Cricket on October 22nd, 2014.
In the second instalment of our series – part of AOC’s Golden Summers section in association with Wisden – Alex Bowden reminisces about a time when the polite handshake was the celebration of choice.
Take a look at this photo and what do you see? You have to follow the batsman’s eyeline to realise that he’s out. The batsman in question is Don Bradman and this is no ordinary dismissal – if there ever was such a thing with the Don. It is the last time he lost his wicket in a Test match, falling to Eric Hollies for a second-ball duck thus denying him an average of 100. A monumental moment in cricket, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Now look at the fielders. No fist pumps, no high-fives and certainly no sprinkler celebrations. History is being greeted in controlled, muted fashion. It’s almost as if they haven’t noticed.
But they have noticed. What you can’t see from the photo is that when the bails fall, silly mid-off starts to leap in the air but then catches himself and aborts. It’s almost as if he realises it would be unseemly to be seen celebrating another’s downfall.
Now you could argue that these were exceptional circumstances; that Bradman had earned that sort of respect. But would it happen nowadays and would it have to take the final dismissal of the greatest batsman of all time for such respect to be displayed?
The truth is these were different times when the polite handshake was the celebration of choice. Ravi Bopara and James Tredwell briefly brought it back in a 2012 one-day international against South Africa and, even though it was choreographed, people loved it. Restraint is novel in this day and age.
Jim Laker’s 19 wickets against Australia in 1956 offered ample opportunity to get carried away, but there were no send-offs, no group hugs, no bestial roars. Watch the video footage and at times it’s hard to know when a wicket has fallen. A handshake often tips you off, but the fielders aren’t always moved to such outpourings.
When Richie Benaud is bowled in the second innings, leg-slip celebrates by folding his arms. When Ray Lindwall is dismissed, there’s initially a bit of doubt. Everyone seems to appeal by ambling about looking at the floor and when the umpire finally raises his finger, they celebrate by continuing to do exactly the same thing.
For wicket number 19 – Laker’s 10th of the innings – the first thing the fielders do is start walking off the pitch. It’s only when they’re a couple of steps closer to the pavilion that they indulge in some light clapping. Some shake Laker’s hand, but only if they happen to find themselves alongside him as they walk off.
Some will say that it’s more exciting to see the players showing their emotions, but how often is the emotion on display schadenfreude? For every joyous moment, there’s another that smacks of being some sort of primitive display of dominance being carried out at the defeated batsman’s expense. Restraint has class.
We’d like to see more players taking Ravi and Tredwell’s lead and going old school with their celebrations. What’s wrong with a firm handshake and a polite ‘well played’ delivered in a clipped 1950s BBC accent?