January 1, 2011

I sledge, you abuse

The wonderfully flexible line that divides acceptable on-field behaviour from the nasty sort
35

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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).

  • 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'.

  • 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.

  • gaurav on January 2, 2011, 5:59 GMT

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

  • yogaselvan on January 2, 2011, 5:31 GMT

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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).

  • 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'.

  • 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.

  • gaurav on January 2, 2011, 5:59 GMT

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

  • yogaselvan on January 2, 2011, 5:31 GMT

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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Jonathan Ellis on January 2, 2011, 2:15 GMT

    Re. your December 29th comment: It's not fair to say that there wasn't a viable replacement when Gatting was ditched as captain. Gooch was a perfectly viable replacement, as he was subsequently to show when appointed captain.

    Of course, Gooch, rather than Gower (already tried and failed), should have been captain during the 1989 series against the Aussies. But there was the small matter of the fuss over his previous ban for touring South Africa...

  • Sami Khan on January 2, 2011, 0:51 GMT

    Very well written. Sledging is abuse. These young men need to be given a lesson in manners and cross cultural behaviour. Cricketers who respond to sledging (read abuse) should think about standing up against the practice rather than joining the party by 'paying back in the same coin'.

  • Aditya on January 1, 2011, 23:32 GMT

    Well said Andrew "I sledge, you abuse"...I can't help comment on how some teams typically start complaining when they lose. South Africa were at it even in the first test and Paul Harris was the main culprit. Come to the second test, and we start hearing how bad the indians sledged...Come on!!!.. Please note that Australia credited their winning the Perth Game (Ashes 2010 3rd test) to their ability to play their natural game...aka....they sledged and that somehow incredibly helped their performance. I must say the teams including Australia and South Africa have never been comfortable when they are offered a few kind words in exchange and have never been graceful in defeat. When they don't lose, they actually take pride in the art of sledging. I suggest everyone is miked up, and the whole conversation is reviewed in case of a dispute....and if there is none, nobody can't listen to those tapes. Lets focus on the game. By the way, that one delivery to which Kallis got out, was amazing.

  • Philip Reynolds on January 1, 2011, 23:03 GMT

    I think the line is fairly clear: suggesting that one of the opposition has some technical issues, or cannot play the game very well, is passable ("If I bowled you a piano, could you play that?"); anything that is mere abuse or questions the morals of another person (the player's spouse, for example) is not.

  • Wangde on January 1, 2011, 20:48 GMT

    Lol brilliant article

  • Anonymous on January 1, 2011, 15:36 GMT

    haha.

  • Kreagh on January 1, 2011, 15:09 GMT

    Could not agree more with your views on the Graeme Smith - Sreesanth incident. Quite a few Indian supporters commented that Sreesanth needed to "grow up". I don't think Aus/SA/Eng etc supporters would feel that one of their players needed to grow up if their player riled up an opposition batsmen and got the wicket. It seems an improvement on the Sreesanth of old who used to mouth off and batsmen and then get caned all over the park. Maybe he now knows a bit better how sledging works for him.

  • Doug Newsam on January 1, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    The less KP opens his mouth to make public statements the better. There is far too much of a disconnect between the mouth and whatever he has between the ears for that to be safe. Stick to batting KP, you are not bad at that. Claiming, in a back-handed way, some credit for the recent successes is in bad taste.

  • marmao on January 1, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    I love this, thank you Mr Hughes for pointing out the I sledge you abuse policy of teams i.e Aus and SA. It is the age old bully mindset it is OK for them to bully but god forbid if someone does it to them!

  • Junran on January 1, 2011, 12:50 GMT

    Hear, Hear on the sledging point. Very wittily articulated.

  • Aditya on January 1, 2011, 11:20 GMT

    Apparently Sreesanth had reminded Smith that his own team-mates didn't respect/like him (with reference to Gibbs, I'm sure). Which is obviously very personal. And since then I've been trying to imagine Harris sledging impersonally and harmlessly with the expressions like he'd eat batsmen. "Hey Sreesanth, you know what? Justin Bieber sucks."

  • Paul Dawson on January 1, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    Splendid journalism. Every point spot on.

  • shubh on January 1, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    simply brilliant! LMAO!

  • Parvathi Raman on January 1, 2011, 9:44 GMT

    Would anyone like to remind Pietersen that he wanted Andy Flower sacked as well?

  • nr on January 1, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    i feel the same way as U on the Smith-Sreesanth episode. Guess they should come out with Dictonary of what abuses are acceptable & what are not :)

  • Akshay on January 1, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    On the subject of sledging, I personally like it. It's quite fun to watch when 7 fielders start chatting against 1 batsman.

  • rachit on January 1, 2011, 9:12 GMT

    LOL!! awesome article....loved the first part (obviously, since i'm an indian!!)

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

  • anonymous on January 1, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    SouthAfricans are acting like cry babies complaning about sledging. Its just a taste of their own medicine. It gets personal just when they cant handle it.

  • n@cchu on January 1, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    Andrew 'since the lump of wood was not performing in its main capacity as a run-scoring device' is better apt for Ricky than Graeme.... Even Ricky could have consider using t he lump of wood against Tremlett and Co.!

  • Mehul on January 1, 2011, 7:36 GMT

    I was quite ashamed of what Sreesanth, being the excitable character that he is, might have said to Smith. Thank you for ridding my soul, and Sreesanth's, of the guilt.

    "What's your average, mate? 8, 8.11? You must know." "Your mother..."

  • Circe on January 1, 2011, 7:27 GMT

    I know of at least one instance of "impersonal" sledging that proved to be as rattling as any. It was an India vs Pakistan Match with Kumble bowling to Mohd Yusuf(or perhaps Yonis Khan, there is a youtube video, so we can check), and Mohd. Kaif at Forward Short leg. Before three consecutive deliveries, Kaif kept shouting to all the players around him (including Dravid in the slips, and the captain at that time) why it wasn't at all required to have fielders at the boundary. His words went like "He hasn't hit a four in ages. He isn't capable of doing that now. We don't need those fielders at the boundary." This was carried out in Hindi/Urdu, which the Pakistani bastemn are perfectably capable of understanding. The Indian fielders, and the batsmen, just kept smiling. But it showed that Yousuf had been rattled when just a couple of deliveries later he was out, c Kaif b Kumble. Now that is as close as it gets to being impersonal: Kaif wasn't even addressing Yousuf. :)

  • Circe on January 1, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    I know of at least one instance of "impersonal" sledging that proved to be as rattling as any. It was an India vs Pakistan Match with Kumble bowling to Mohd Yusuf(or perhaps Yonis Khan, there is a youtube video, so we can check), and Mohd. Kaif at Forward Short leg. Before three consecutive deliveries, Kaif kept shouting to all the players around him (including Dravid in the slips, and the captain at that time) why it wasn't at all required to have fielders at the boundary. His words went like "He hasn't hit a four in ages. He isn't capable of doing that now. We don't need those fielders at the boundary." This was carried out in Hindi/Urdu, which the Pakistani bastemn are perfectably capable of understanding. The Indian fielders, and the batsmen, just kept smiling. But it showed that Yousuf had been rattled when just a couple of deliveries later he was out, c Kaif b Kumble.

  • John Ward on January 1, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    You are so right -

    "Alternatively, players could just be told to stop their silly name-calling and behave like grown-ups."

    Why should there be allowed on the cricket field the sort of behaviour that would be considered totally unacceptable in the office or other areas of everyday life? So much rubbish spoken also about 'white line fever.' The players need to show more respect and more self-control. An occasional expletive or sarcastic comment can be excused, but no more. I read Allan Donald's book "White Lightning," and the sort of exchanges that took place can be described as no less than unveiled hatred. It should be accepted that any cricketer has the RIGHT to play the game without being distracted or abused by opponents. But, once again, the fault is weak administration - or do they really prefer to see the sort of confrontation you get in wrestling rather than players presenting themselves as good role models for the game and for the young?

  • Amirali on January 1, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    Andrew, according to journalist Dileep Premchandran (through twitter), Sreesanth told Smith "none of us like you. We all think you're arrogant. And it's not just us. Even your teammates have told us." A nice dig based on Gibbs accusations against Smith in his autobiography, and one that struck home. That's good banter and smart words for me - a far cry from McGrath's infamous sledge to Sarwan asking him what Lara's **** tasted like.

  • Gopalakrishna on January 1, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    Of all the blog I liked when I call you names it is sledging, when you call me names it is abuse. Yes that is human nature. I don't think personally Sreesanth has done any wrong, as South Africans have sent so many abuses on Indian batting while they were bowling. So why crib when they received what they have given it to others. That was pure stupidity or trying to fool others. About KP all his comments look childish and have no mature brain behind them.

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  • Gopalakrishna on January 1, 2011, 7:12 GMT

    Of all the blog I liked when I call you names it is sledging, when you call me names it is abuse. Yes that is human nature. I don't think personally Sreesanth has done any wrong, as South Africans have sent so many abuses on Indian batting while they were bowling. So why crib when they received what they have given it to others. That was pure stupidity or trying to fool others. About KP all his comments look childish and have no mature brain behind them.

  • Amirali on January 1, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    Andrew, according to journalist Dileep Premchandran (through twitter), Sreesanth told Smith "none of us like you. We all think you're arrogant. And it's not just us. Even your teammates have told us." A nice dig based on Gibbs accusations against Smith in his autobiography, and one that struck home. That's good banter and smart words for me - a far cry from McGrath's infamous sledge to Sarwan asking him what Lara's **** tasted like.

  • John Ward on January 1, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    You are so right -

    "Alternatively, players could just be told to stop their silly name-calling and behave like grown-ups."

    Why should there be allowed on the cricket field the sort of behaviour that would be considered totally unacceptable in the office or other areas of everyday life? So much rubbish spoken also about 'white line fever.' The players need to show more respect and more self-control. An occasional expletive or sarcastic comment can be excused, but no more. I read Allan Donald's book "White Lightning," and the sort of exchanges that took place can be described as no less than unveiled hatred. It should be accepted that any cricketer has the RIGHT to play the game without being distracted or abused by opponents. But, once again, the fault is weak administration - or do they really prefer to see the sort of confrontation you get in wrestling rather than players presenting themselves as good role models for the game and for the young?

  • Circe on January 1, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    I know of at least one instance of "impersonal" sledging that proved to be as rattling as any. It was an India vs Pakistan Match with Kumble bowling to Mohd Yusuf(or perhaps Yonis Khan, there is a youtube video, so we can check), and Mohd. Kaif at Forward Short leg. Before three consecutive deliveries, Kaif kept shouting to all the players around him (including Dravid in the slips, and the captain at that time) why it wasn't at all required to have fielders at the boundary. His words went like "He hasn't hit a four in ages. He isn't capable of doing that now. We don't need those fielders at the boundary." This was carried out in Hindi/Urdu, which the Pakistani bastemn are perfectably capable of understanding. The Indian fielders, and the batsmen, just kept smiling. But it showed that Yousuf had been rattled when just a couple of deliveries later he was out, c Kaif b Kumble.

  • Circe on January 1, 2011, 7:27 GMT

    I know of at least one instance of "impersonal" sledging that proved to be as rattling as any. It was an India vs Pakistan Match with Kumble bowling to Mohd Yusuf(or perhaps Yonis Khan, there is a youtube video, so we can check), and Mohd. Kaif at Forward Short leg. Before three consecutive deliveries, Kaif kept shouting to all the players around him (including Dravid in the slips, and the captain at that time) why it wasn't at all required to have fielders at the boundary. His words went like "He hasn't hit a four in ages. He isn't capable of doing that now. We don't need those fielders at the boundary." This was carried out in Hindi/Urdu, which the Pakistani bastemn are perfectably capable of understanding. The Indian fielders, and the batsmen, just kept smiling. But it showed that Yousuf had been rattled when just a couple of deliveries later he was out, c Kaif b Kumble. Now that is as close as it gets to being impersonal: Kaif wasn't even addressing Yousuf. :)

  • Mehul on January 1, 2011, 7:36 GMT

    I was quite ashamed of what Sreesanth, being the excitable character that he is, might have said to Smith. Thank you for ridding my soul, and Sreesanth's, of the guilt.

    "What's your average, mate? 8, 8.11? You must know." "Your mother..."

  • n@cchu on January 1, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    Andrew 'since the lump of wood was not performing in its main capacity as a run-scoring device' is better apt for Ricky than Graeme.... Even Ricky could have consider using t he lump of wood against Tremlett and Co.!

  • anonymous on January 1, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    SouthAfricans are acting like cry babies complaning about sledging. Its just a taste of their own medicine. It gets personal just when they cant handle it.

  • rachit on January 1, 2011, 9:12 GMT

    LOL!! awesome article....loved the first part (obviously, since i'm an indian!!)

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

  • Akshay on January 1, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    On the subject of sledging, I personally like it. It's quite fun to watch when 7 fielders start chatting against 1 batsman.