Daughter on his right arm, Australia’s Travis Head selected a popsicle from a tray held by a member of the Pakistan squad. Tell that to Javed Miandad and Dennis Lillee, who nearly came to blows on the pitch in 1981.
This is Christmas and New Year season in social media era. And so, on the eve of the Boxing Day Test, and out of some genuine intention and with one eye on optics, Pakistan walked over to the Australians with gifts and sweets. It won’t be surprising if Miandad and Lillee are ROFL.
The sports calendar does not always stop for the holiday season. The result is players celebrate on foreign soil and often in unique ways.
The Australian women’s team, currently in India, had a special Christmas lunch, played Secret Santa and had an in-house painting competition.
“It was nice for people to be able to have some sort of normality during what’s not overly normal (being away from family at this time of the year),” Australian allrounder Ash Gardner said on a podcast.
For sides touring South Africa, going on safaris is tradition. It looks like during the holiday season, the animals too are in a relaxed mood and offer generous sightings to visitors. Recently Shubman Gill shared some of the wildlife gold he witnessed in South Africa. A lioness tearing up a zebra was one of the clips. Being South Africa, the big cat perhaps sipped on a local Cabernet Sauvignon with her feast.
Six years ago, as 2017 made way for 2018, South Africa brought out the Punjabis in Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and a few other players. It was New Year’s Eve and the team had an off day. Wandering the streets of Cape Town, they stumbled upon a local band playing on the street. Out came the bhangra moves of Kohli and Dhawan.
Novak Djokovic is another superstar who can cut a rug. Due to accusations of cockiness in the past and his current status as the sport’s GOAT, the Serb keeps a lid on his impulses. But beneath the controlled exterior hides a gangsta. And he breaks the shackles of discretion from time to time.
On New Year’s Eve in Adelaide last year, Djokovic secured a table at Africola, a restaurant so popular even its owner needs to book in advance if he wishes to eat there. As the music thumped, Djokovic wore his sunglasses and popped his collar. And then he drummed the table and grooved to the beat.
And yet, today’s athlete, monkish about their diet and wary of the constant gaze of smartphone cameras, does not go as loco with the partying as their predecessor. It is unthinkable in these times that a team with an Ashes Test to play in some 24 hours would have a champagne breakfast and a costume party late into the night. It is exactly what England did at Christmas in 1986-87. And they won the series.