January 1, 2011

I sledge, you abuse

The wonderfully flexible line that divides acceptable on-field behaviour from the nasty sort

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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