Soon after racking up a match winning ton, with lap shots and reverse sweeps, England’s talismanic batsman Joe Root looked towards the dressing room and wiggled his little finger. A day earlier, at the team’s balcony, England’s captain Ben Stokes would do the same gesture.
It turns out it was a tribute to their new coach Brendon McCullum and in particular, his love for the American rockstar Elvis Presley. It was a gesture started by McCullum in the camp, after he had recently seen the Elvis Presley movie, the box-office hit.
Morning, Rockstars 🤘 pic.twitter.com/MAH9MBrz82
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 6, 2022
“Ben (England coach Brendan McCullum) has wanted us to be entertainers, he’s mentioned trying to be ‘rock stars’ on the field,” Root said at the end after leading England’s gung-ho run chase for 378. The captain Ben Stokes would go on to even say that he wished India had “got to 450” to see “what they (his team) would do”.
“Ben watched the Elvis Presley film the other day, and he’s been doing that all week, so it’s a little tribute to him,” Root explained the little-finger gesture.
What’s the connection between Elvis and the little finger?
In August 1956, the 21-year old Elvis was booked for six shows in Jacksonville in Florida at the Florida theatre, a relatively smaller auditorium with a capacity of 2220 people.
Just a few months before that, the young Elvis had launched himself into public imagination and notoriety. Incidentally, in Jacksonville. In a series of shows, ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ had become a thing, after his signature bumps, grinds, writhing, and hip-gyrations. The female members in the audience tore the clothes off his back; such was the frenzy around him when he rebooked Jacksonville in August.
An uproar had erupted in the conservative circles and he was taken to meet the judge Gooding before the performance. Years later, the judge would say, “”They had me convinced that no teenage girl was safe around Elvis Presley,” Judge Gooding recalled years later. “They wanted to have him watched at the theater and they wanted his hotel room watched. They had him pictured as a real villain.”
Back then, he had warned Elvis and the manager that he would be present for the first show and told them not to do any of the ‘dirty’ moves. Elvis would tell the media after the meeting, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I know my mother approves of what I’m doing.”
On the day of the concert, police swarmed the arena. At 3.30 pm, Elvis opened his performance with the chartbuster ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. He shook his hips out once. The Judge would whisper to the lawyer, sat beside him. “I am going to put him in jail”. But that was the last such move Elvis would do that day. “They won’t allow me to do this here,” he told the audience.
Instead, he stood frozen. Only, his little finger moved. The wiggling little finger replaced the usual erotic movements. The crowd reportedly went berserk, and started to mimic the wiggle.
In the here and now, McCullum has started to wiggle the little finger. Certainly, the brand of cricket English are playing has been sexy all right.
Joe Root on being a rock star
Root brought the house down at the post-match interaction when he talked about his reactions to the “rockstar” comments of the coach.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star, but for 10 seconds I might have done today (laughter). That was what the little pinky was about. And so it’s more just about trying to have fun and really relish every opportunity you get to go and showcase what you’re about and, you know, put on a show for everyone.”
A batting God! 🙇
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 5, 2022
Interestingly, Root also spoke about the ambivalence in him in trying to adopt the aggressive approach.
“The Yorkshireman inside me is still saying ‘dig in, play straight and get behind it’,” said Root, shadowing a forward defensive shot. “Then there’s the captain on my shoulder saying ‘be a rock star’. So you’re fighting between the two of them, sometimes.”
He would unfurl lap shots to seamers over third man and to fine-leg region. “There have been occasions where I might have played some unusual shots if you look at the history of Test cricket, but they’ve felt like pretty low-risk options at the moment.”
“Hopefully we’re still heading into the unknown and there’s more to come.”
As things turned out, Judge Gooding’s son would become a huge Elvis fan, and have his posters on the walls of his room. A year before he died, the good judge himself would gift his wife a album of Elvis singing religious songs.