Mexican Wave
[ Issue 1 ]

The Mexican Wave really turns Emily Bronto on

Let Bikwil introduce you to the Mexican Wave

The Mexican Wave

If you’re a one-day cricket fan who has actually attended an international game or two you will probably have some fondness for that audience participation diversion called the Mexican Wave – or the Wave, for short.

Harlish Goop asks a few questions about it.

What purpose does all this community rippling serve?

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A Word in Your Pink Shell-like — Harlish Goop


(This is the first in a series on words and phrases, some old, some new, some borrowed and maybe some of that other kind.)

Provided you are not a die-hard Member of the Sydney Cricket Ground (or similar venerable institution), then if you’re a one-day cricket fan who has actually attended an international game or two you will probably have some fondness for that audience participation diversion called the Mexican Wave – or the Wave, for short.

But how did the ritual arise? Mexico is no cricketing nation, so are we to assume it originated at a football match? And what’s it for anyway?

According to the Macquarie Dictionary of New Words of 1990, it did indeed begin in Mexico City, at the 1986 World Cup finals.

The dictionary quotes two local references. The first, from the Brisbane Telegraph of 29 July 1986, asserts that the Wave “was designed to distract competitors” during those finals, and complains, “it has since been seen in test cricket matches in England”.

The other quote, from the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 February 1988, doesn’t attempt to explain origins (assuming that by then we all knew?), but does a give reasonable definition of what it calls “the very latest fad”:

Basically it’s a spontaneous action where one section of spectators stands up, arms waving, then sits as the next section does the same. The movement goes on and on around the ground, forming a spectacular rippling effect.

The Oxford Dictionary of New Words of 1991, while adhering to the 1986 World Cup bit, declares that it was originally called the “Human Wave” and was practised in the early 1980s by American football crowds. When it was done in ‘86 in Mexico, it was seen on TV and then copied world-wide under its new name.

By 1989 an extra ingredient had been added, or more accurately several thousand ingredients. The Oxford quotes from The Times, which on 12 June grumbled thus:

Play was first delayed when another rendition of the Mexican wave, that mental aberration which cricket should long have discouraged, was accompanied by a confetti storm of torn-up paper.

But what purpose, according to the Oxford, does all this community body rippling serve? The crowd, it would seem, thereby “expresses appreciation of what is happening in the match”.

So, while you unruly Wavers are having a good time, if you really need self-justification you may take your lexical pick. You are either trying to distract the players, or else showing your appreciation of them.


Sorry, no. I’m afraid that neither of those desires motivates Australian cricket spectators. From personal observation at the SCG, I’d say that our mob do it simply out of boredom. You see, the Wave never begins during exciting play, and in fact can always be guaranteed to peter out if a wicket falls or a four is scored.

Meanwhile, it’s as if the crowd is saying to its collective self, “We love our cricket, sure, but we also expect some slow moments, so when they occur, we’ll provide our own fun.”

Alcohol helps, too.

As a rule at the SCG the Wave begins on the Hill. After a couple of false starts, it moves in a clockwise direction, first to the huge Clive Churchill/Brewongle stand, where it is welcomed by all tiers, then to the Ladies Stand. Here a few hardy souls brave the displeasure of their neighbours and join in, grateful perhaps for the vulgar chance to stretch their legs.

Next door is the Members Stand, and on a good day the most you can expect to see here are one or two half-hearted pairs of arms, accompanied by raucous boos and catcalls from the rest of the ground.

But now it’s the turn of the M.A. Noble Stand, where the undulation ever so slowly picks up again (half this stand is for Members). And now to the Bradman. Here enthusiasm fully returns, echoed with exhilaration in the Bill O’Reilly and finally in the Doug Walters, whence once more the Hill sends it on its rolling way.

Mind you, despite its reputation for rowdiness, the Hill doesn’t claim exclusive right to Wave initiation. Usually in the latter stages of a match the countdown can just as easily start in the concourse area of the O’Reilly or Bradman Stands.

For years the SCG endeavoured in vain to discourage the disgraceful practice, even to the extent of flashing warnings on the electronic scoreboard. Recently it seems to have accepted the inevitable, however, and the Aussie Wave (its Central American origins utterly forgotten) continues to prosper.

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