January 1, 2011

I sledge, you abuse

Andrew Hughes
England fast bowler James Anderson addresses a press conference in Melbourne, Melbourne, December 31, 2010
“... When he started on my brand of hair mousse, I knew things had gone too far, it had become personal”  © Getty Images
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Tuesday, 28th December Today we were granted another guided tour of the murky ethical underworld of the modern cricketer. Apparently Sreesanth had been rude to Graeme Smith during the day’s play. The big man took exception to it and, Miandad-like, brandished his bat as though it were a weapon. This seems as good a use for it as any, since the lump of wood was not performing in its main capacity as a run-scoring device. But what can Sreesanth have said that so riled the statuesque South African?

More pertinently, what can he have said that has not already been said on a cricket field? Enter Paul Harris, in his post match seminar on the ethics of gratuitous abuse. He conjured for us a metaphysical line that no player should cross. How do you know when you’ve stepped over the line? When things get “personal”. But this only raises more questions. For a start, what does non-personal sledging sound like? How do you hurl abuse at someone in an impersonal way?

I’ve no doubt there is a line. It goes something like this: I call you names, that’s sledging; you call me names, that’s personal and unacceptable abuse. Maybe we could do with another of those Spirit of Cricket declarations, outlining just what a chap can and can’t say on a cricket field. We could even have an extra chapter explaining for how long it is acceptable to argue with an umpire. Alternatively, players could just be told to stop their silly name-calling and behave like grown-ups.

Wednesday, 29th December Even as the dregs of his captaincy swirl around the plughole of fate, Ricky still has a lot to offer. His many years in the game have brought him great wisdom. This, for example, is how he summed up the Australian effort at the MCG.

“We didn’t do anything different than we did last week, we just haven’t played well.”

I think that would be the thing that you did differently, Ricky, the bit about not playing well. Still, you have to feel sorry for the little fella. There is a mood for change in Australian cricket, but changing captains on the basis of moods or hunches is not a good policy. Lest any Englishman forget, we still hold the record for most discarded captains in a Test series - the Gatting-Emburey-Cowdrey-Gooch-Pringle summer of 1988. And it all started because we ditched the incumbent in the absence of a viable replacement, because, well, it kind of felt like the right thing to do.

Thursday, 30th December Champions of Chutzpah, the PCB have outdone themselves. They have set up something called an Integrity Committee. Yes, really. And who is to lead this fight for integrity? Why, Mr Ijaz Butt of course. First up for the committee is a serious investigation into the affairs of Shoaib Malik, Danish Kaneria and Kamran Akmal, three men who haven’t been charged with anything and against whom there is no evidence. Perhaps when they’ve finished grilling these players, the No-Smoke-Without-Fire Committee could ask their illustrious chairman a few questions?

Friday, 31st December Against advice, Kevin Pietersen has been talking in public again. He has explained that it was a good thing that he brought down the previous coaching regime, because under Peter Moores there is no way England could have won the Ashes. At first glance, taking time out from a victory celebration to have a swipe at the previous coach two years after he was sacked might suggest a certain amount of bitterness on the part of KP. But that would be unfair. He goes on to offer an unflinching analysis of his own leadership skills.

“I got rid of the captaincy for the good of English cricket and we would not be here today if I had not done what I did then.”

Quite.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Looch on (January 9, 2011, 23:05 GMT)

Of course when it is an Indian doing it, it is gamesmanship, when ANY other nation does it, it is abuse! Time to accept that every team sledges and seeing one team trying to grab what they think is the high moral ground on the matter is a joke and totally hypocritical. Time to get your head out of the sand!

Posted by Gopal on (January 5, 2011, 20:46 GMT)

The South Africans should may be come out with a handbook( written by Mr.Smith himself) containing material which is acceptable to say during sledging. When sreesanth does it, then it's personal and when Harris or steyn do it,then it's a case of tough cricketers giving it their best.What a bunch of Hypocrites!

Posted by Ska on (January 3, 2011, 15:00 GMT)

@Tim: Are you implying that commenting on a player's weight is any less insulting than saying nobody likes him? I'd add this one thing to your list - appearance. If nobody likes Smith, that's because he comes off as a jerk, not bcos he's ugly, over-weight or gay - even if he was either or all of those, I'm pretty sure the opponents wouldn't pick on them. Bottomline: Sreesanth did not cross the line (this time).

Posted by Aditya on (January 2, 2011, 21:16 GMT)

@Philip and Tim - Sure we've heard some witty things being spoken as part of sledging. And I'm all for abuse-free cricket. But I can't believe from the expressions of most of the bowlers out there that they are being funny. It's another thing that I really don't expect most of them to be able to come up with 'witty' sledges hoping to get under batsmen's skin. "try to hit that red thing" - you can't possibly imagine Steyn saying anything lame like that with those 'I hunt crocodiles' expression in his eyes. Bowlers and captains (Smith gave a verbal send-off to Ishant) wouldn't have been giving send-off's if all they intended was some impersonal sledges. And it'd be extremely hypocritical of you if you deemed abusing to be ok as long as it was impersonal. I don't know too many abuses who are impersonal because I'm sure they don't call each other 'cat' or 'dog'.

Posted by Rahul on (January 2, 2011, 7:06 GMT)

I guess the main reason SAFERs are so irritated is sreesanth managed to get under smiths skin. Smith is an experienced campaigner and has seen it all. Still the little prat sreesanth managed to induce an ugly shot from him at crucial moment when smith had just got zaheer out of the way by attacking him and chase was truly on. Sure smiths team mates including í cant turn a door knob' harris must have been pretty annoyed.

Posted by gaurav on (January 2, 2011, 5:59 GMT)

Hahahaha!!! RESPECT! this column made my sunday!

Posted by yogaselvan on (January 2, 2011, 5:31 GMT)

sout africans just got choked in sleding also.......

Posted by Siva on (January 2, 2011, 3:52 GMT)

Andrew I read your columns without fail. The humour is refreshing and of very high standards. The fact that you would write an editorial type piece on the unedifying shenanigans between Smith and Sreeshanth pretty much says it all. Your writing is better than the phoney statesmen like drivel that is dished out by the Reoboks, Haighs and the Baums of the world. Start writing on the Page 1 mate. For heavens sake

Posted by Anil on (January 2, 2011, 3:42 GMT)

Does this article have any meaning what so ever. At point one we talk of Sreesanth, agreed but better yet from our point of view, it should have been Prior-Siddle-Ricky confrontation. Agreed, then Andrew just takes it to media Vs Players. Why is this article even written and published? If you wanna talk sledging talk how bad were, are and will be the australian and SA cricket. They are good at giving it but absolutely pathetic in takin it back.

Posted by tim on (January 2, 2011, 2:29 GMT)

there is definitely a line between abuse and sledging. sledging is getting under someone's skin with witty and jibing remarks like "try to hit that red thing", or "that wooden thing you have in your hand is supposed to hit the ball", or "looks like youve put on some weight there big fella"..and so on...these are comments that adults can take and shouldnt react to. the line is where one is degraded because of race, beliefs, culture or sexual preference..its a pretty easy line to spot for the half intelligent. its the dummies that react to it that spoil it for everyone..not the instigators who are doing it as part of the cricketer's arsenal...after all much of the game is in one's head. the immature ones are those making a big deal of it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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