International players told to clean up their act December 11, 2005

ICC gets tough on 'war of words'


Malcolm Speed - "Players should be under no illusions" © Getty Images

The ICC has told international cricketers to cut down on their verbal sparring or risk disciplinary action. In a release issued on Sunday, they singled out Australia and South Africa after a prolonged "war of words" ahead of their upcoming Test series.

They issued the statement from their Dubai headquarters, and warned that umpires and match referees would not allow the spirit of the game to be compromised. The ICC added there had been a "spate of code of conduct reports" and that the "war of words" in the lead up to South Africa's series with Australia had raised concerns that the high standards expected of international cricketers were at risk of being eroded.

The code of conduct governs players and officials on and off-field behaviour and, if broken, it can lead to both fines and suspensions. The ICC's Australian chief executive, Malcolm Speed, added he was also concerned by the way off-field comments might adversely influence player behaviour and said what he wanted was more of the much-praised sportsmanship witnessed during the recent Pakistan-India and England-Australia Test series.

"Unfortunately, since the Ashes there has been a spate of code of conduct offences committed by players which have resulted in a series of penalties being applied, including suspension," Speed said. "There have also been a series of comments by players and former players ahead of the Australia v South Africa series that I believe make it necessary to remind the players of the importance of playing within the spirit of the game ahead of this series."

Since the start of November, eight players and officials have been found guilty of ICC code of conduct breaches, twice the number of guilty verdicts in the same period last year. This year 38 players and officials have already been charged with offences as the game heads into what is traditionally one of its busiest periods with a number of Tests and one-day internationals remaining before the end of the year. This compares with a total of 37 charges in the whole of 2004.

Speed said that while verbal exchanges between players were part of the game any player who crossed the line faced action under the code. "Players should be under no illusions. Cricket is a game that expects high standards of behaviour from its players, Umpires will report code of conduct breaches and where a breach occurs, it will be dealt with."

South Africa have upset Australians by claiming the Aussies use hostile comments known as "sledging" to upset and distract their opponents. Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne, renowned almost as much for his 'sledging' as his bowling, hit back on Sunday.

Told that South Africa were employing a psychologist, he said: "They might need one by the time we've finished with them." The first Test of a three-match series starts in Perth on Friday.