South Africa in Australia 2016-17 November 1, 2016

Clarke, Haddin warn against excessive sledging

Daniel Brettig and Melinda Farrell
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'Your performance isn't dictated by your mouth' - Clarke

Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin have counselled Australia against excessive sledging in the forthcoming Test series against South Africa, querying whether recent efforts to "puff chests out" detracted more from the team's performances than having any impact on the opposition.

The Australia ODI team engaged in numerous verbal battles with South Africa over the course of a 5-0 series defeat on their recent tour, which followed captain Steven Smith's assertion that a "quiet" team needed to show more "energy" in the field. While Clarke and Haddin were both known for numerous verbal stoushes over their careers, they agreed that forcing the issue verbally would do more harm than good.

"I'm probably contradicting the way I captained, because I loved that aggressive approach and while there was a line, I always liked the team I captained to head-butt that line, not overstep it but head-butt it. That's how I thought we played our best cricket," Clarke told ESPNcricinfo. "But the more I experienced got I believed it wasn't what you said it was what you did, so your performance wasn't dictated by your mouth.

"I'm probably contradicting myself and my captaincy style because there were a couple of occasions where I did open my big mouth. The reason I did that with James Anderson was to stick up for George Bailey and the Dale Steyn one was sticking up for James Pattinson as well. But I shouldn't have said a word, in both situations there was no need for me to say anything."

Clarke noted that numerous players from past eras were particularly talkative on the field because it is what worked for them, not because they felt compelled to do so out of some idealised image of the Australian cricketer. "I think you need to do what's comfortable to you," he said. "The team I grew up playing in that Australian team, they had Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Shane Warne, these guys liked and enjoyed that verbal competition.

"That helped them perform. So if that helps you, as long as you don't overstep that mark, then go for your life. There's a number of players around the world that enjoy that. I remember Kevin Pietersen loved that challenge against Mitchell Johnson or Shane Warne, whomever it was.

"So if it helps your game, do it, but I don't think you should force it. I think that'd be like me trying to bat like Ricky Ponting. The guys have got to work out what they feel is best for them individually and as a team and go for it. But if it doesn't suit your personality then I wouldn't try to be someone I'm not."

Michael Clarke on his altercation with James Anderson during the 2013 Ashes: "I shouldn't have said a word." © Getty Images

Haddin expressed the view that teams could make life uncomfortable for opponents without resorting to verbal abuse. Areas like aggressive fielding, running between the wickets and banter among team-mates - sometimes referred to as "talking across" the batsmen - could have the same effect without becoming a distraction from the primary goal - to win the game.

"I don't think it's about what you say on the field," Haddin said. "The best Australian teams I've been a part of have been able to create an uncomfortable environment for the opposition with your body language, your movements around the game, and creating an atmosphere with each other where the opposition feels like they're the only two people out there, or he [the batsman] feels like he's stuck out there by himself.

"It's the environment you're trying to create with your presence. That can be having the most athletic fielding team so the opposition feels uncomfortable there. It's about creating the environment to make the opposition feel they can't play their best. The best way you can do that is to create an environment where the opposition try to do something they don't normally do.

"Sometimes the best form of that is not to say anything - you wouldn't say anything to a Kevin Pietersen for example because he'd dig his heels in and start taking it personally to hit us all around the park. One of the best things for him was to stay away from him."

Conversely, Haddin felt that talking too much to opponents invariably led to a change in the power dynamic, as the "sledgers" revealed more about their own discomfort than those they were targeting. "Talking too much to the opposition ... you've got to earn the right to play the way you want to play," Haddin said.

"Sometimes if you're just focusing on talking and trying to get a reaction it can have a negative effect on your team. The reason you create that uncomfortable environment there is to make the opposition do something they don't want to do. If it starts detracting from what you're trying to do then that's a problem."

Asked to provide an example of a player who struck the right balance, Haddin mentioned Andrew Symonds. "Andrew was one of the best team men I ever played with," he said. "He didn't say a lot to the opposition, but his presence in the covers or when he had the ball he was always up for the contest.

"You knew if Andrew was there, the way he dived in the field and chased, the tempo he set running between the wickets, the opposition could look at him and says 'Hang on, the Australians are up for the fight today' and that then puts doubt in their change room."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig; Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • serubhai on November 4, 2016, 8:28 GMT

    Aaah! That hypothetical line...I was just wondering when it would come up again. Pup...do we have a definition here by any chance? Saying..'gonna break your arm' is head-butting but what is the crossing of the line? Actually break the arm? Can we have the lat and long of this line both from the Aussies and England please? Instead of the prevalent practice of the line being carried away at the end of each day's play , it will at least stay on the ground .Pls publish @cricinfo

  • jamiedow on November 2, 2016, 14:19 GMT

    I love it! Haddin and - of all people - Clarke buffing themselves up as mature, wise, considered voices on appropriate attitudes in the game of cricket. Nice try, boys. Might take more than a shirt and tie, soft voices, and background music to pull of that look, though. I especially like Haddin's suggestion that acceptable behaviour is brilliantly assessed and policed by ... oh yes, ... the Australian test team! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

  • vstrider on November 2, 2016, 12:37 GMT

    what a joke, Clarke and Haddin warning against Sledging, can these lot hear themselves?

    Two of the worst offenders of the last 10 years

  • RDCricFan on November 2, 2016, 10:36 GMT

    Clarke and Haddin are warning against Excessive Sldeging is like a joke. They did tons of that.. they are no saints I reckon. If this Aussie side can win some games it is going to involve some sledging... So go Aussies and SA teams.. Sledge, Play some hard tough cricket and Entertain the Cricket world..

  •   Martin Nosworthy on November 2, 2016, 8:42 GMT

    "Clarke and Haddin warn against excessive sledging" - for a second there, I thought it was 1 April...

  • adityanaikdesai on November 2, 2016, 8:02 GMT

    Great that Haddin mentioned Symonds. One my favourite all-rounders. Seeing the kind of players that get paraded around as great today... feel really bad for Symonds. He would've and should've been a megastar. In any era!

  • AnupJohnson on November 2, 2016, 5:13 GMT

    Cricket's all time greats like COURTNEY WALSH, KAPIL DEV never sledged !

  • Rajesh_india_1990 on November 2, 2016, 3:22 GMT

    @T20forever Well said mate....We saw how the Australians tried to sledge SA players eventhough the team was getting hammered in each and every ODI by SA..Australian cricket players nowadays routine is: Eat-Sleep-Sledge-Lose-Eat-sleep-sledge-lose..Poor guys always embarrassed in subcontinent..Can't even a draw a match in the subcontinent for the past three subcontinental tours..Just hilarious to see two angels of cricket clarke,haddin talks about the 'invisible' line which noone sees other than the Australians..

  • T20forever on November 2, 2016, 1:47 GMT

    If they had spent half their time on playing spin instead of learning the art of sledging, they wouldn't have faced the embarrassments in sub continent.

  • Rajesh_india_1990 on November 2, 2016, 0:57 GMT

    @damien how about looking at your own country fans who appears in each and every Indian forum to talk trash about India...Coming to this series, enjoy some draws in those cement roads while it lasts..Because it will be complete mayhem coming indian tour where another whitewash is looming against world's uno no.1 test team..

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