Move over all ye fist-pumpers and parentage questioners, Mushfiqur Rahim's terpsichorean ecstasy is the new normal in celebratory expressions in the sports arena
Don’t be surprised if the next time you are watching a cricket match on TV, at the fall of a wicket, an ad pops up from a milk food company: “This Nagin dance is brought to you by Milkina". A much parodied Bollywood trope has suddenly got a zing of its own, so we might see a whole new set of merchandise with snake dance as the theme, emerging from the woodwork.
If that happens, send out a silent prayer of thanks to Bangladesh batsman Mushfiqur Rahim. The former skipper and now his country’s wicket keeper followed up his blistering knock of 72 in 35 balls comprising four sixes and five fours to win a key game against hosts Sri Lanka in the recent Nidahas T20 tri-series with a ‘snake dance’, or what has since been since christened the Nagin dance celebration. As the diminutive batsman did a rather strange impersonation of a snake in thrall, he added his bit to the sporting hall of fame for celebrations. It was the kolàveri moment for cricket, high viral load with a strong FOMO moment even if the aesthetic on display wasn’t quite as pleasing.
Over the next few days, as the Bangladesh team and then fans in the stadium picked up the cue, an unexpected South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) bridge was being built on the steps of the Nagin dance, enshrining India’s big brother status in purely reptilian scale. It was India after all that went on to win the tournament with its B team trumping the Bangla tigers in a last ball thriller.
The dance itself is a bit of trite parody even in Bollywood. But it meshes well in the long, not always, holy nexus between hi-jinks thrill-a-minute contemporary cricket and even more camp Bollywood. Think Vyjayanthimala and Reena Roy and Sridevi.
Mushfiqur’s gyrations, which instantly went viral on social media and were richly displayed in the stands in the next game against India which Bangladesh conspired to lose, now belong with the famous Mexican wave; Bebeto’s ‘rock the baby’ show in the 1994 World Cup to celebrate the birth of his son; Saurav Ganguly’s off-with-the-top show at Lords, and similar such exaggerated exultations in sports.
Such celebrations, on the field and in the stands, are an integral part of sports. If the wave and the Vuvuzelas have kept spectators entertained, Cameroon ace Roger Milla’s famous celebratory jig near the corner flag in the 1990 soccer world cup or National Football League star Shawne Merriman’s strange twerking convulsions which passed off as a victory dance, have added lustre to moments of sporting glory. These little gestures, at times spontaneous but mostly well-rehearsed, go on to become markers for players. No victory by Usain Bolt was deemed complete without his signature move, the “Lighting Bolt". Portuguese genius Cristiano Ronaldo signs off all his goals with his now iconic jump-and-turn celebration, in part inspired by the approving roars of a prolonged ‘siiii (yesss)’ from his adoring fans at Real Madrid.
Some, of course, have used the moment to make a point. Thus, in 1998, when Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was accused of imbibing coke, he responded after scoring in an EPL match against Everton by dropping to his knees and pretending to snort directly off the white lines on the ground. Even more famous is the black power salute by athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. As a symbol of resistance and defiance, the gesture by the two winners has few parallels in history.
So, move over all ye fist-pumpers and parentage questioners. Mushfiqur’s terpsichorean ecstasy is the new normal in celebratory expressions in the sports arena.
Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage. The Corporate Outsider will look at current issues and trends in the corporate sector every week.