January 9, 2014

Why send-offs are ludicrous

Why do some bowlers feel the need to jeer the dismissed batsman as he walks off?
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If he introspects on his reaction to Johnson's wicket, Stokes is bound to feel a tad ludicrous © Getty Images

Ben Stokes' send-off of Mitchell Johnson after he bowled him for 4 in Australia's second innings of the Sydney Test was one of the silliest sledges of all time. At one stroke, Stokes reminded us how incoherent some defences for sledging are, what a despicable act the send-off is, and lastly, just how much maturity still awaits him.

As a reminder, when Stokes dismissed Johnson, a bowler who, at that point in the series had taken 34 English wickets, traumatised the English top order, and done a great deal to (I will resist the temptation to say "single-handedly") bring the Ashes back to the antipodes, the match and series situation was as follows: England were 0-4 down in the Ashes, the Australian lead was 415, and Stokes' team had previously lost Tests by 381, 218, and 150 runs, and eight wickets, and needed to bat again on a pitch that had offered Australia's fast bowlers - including Johnson - some assistance.

The head-to-head comparison, if so desired, runs as follows: Stokes took 15 wickets in four Tests at 32.80; Johnson in five Tests took 37 wickets at 13.97; Johnson claimed Stokes' wicket three times; Stokes, Johnson's once. These numbers might assuage those who will claim that Johnson brought it on himself with his glaring and his confrontations with English batsmen during the series. I do not know if Johnson, other than his eyeballing Jimmy Anderson earlier in the series, gave any English batsmen a "proper" send-off, like Stokes did.

Small wonder, then, that a commentator - possibly Ian Healy - immediately described the send-off as akin to Darryl Cullinan sledging Shane Warne. I do not often find myself agreeing with Channel 9's commentary crew but this was one time when a nod of the head was called for. I hope Stokes later, perhaps after he had been dismissed in the second innings for an extravagant 32, which transported his side from 87 for 4 to 139 for 8, 27 runs before the curtain was rung down on a 281-run defeat and a 0-5 final margin, paused for a moment of reflection and judged his own actions as just a tad ludicrous.

There is a broader point here. Defences of sledging often take recourse in the claim that it is a form of - to use Steve Waugh's unlovely neologism - "mental disintegration" , merely another weapon in the bowling side's repertoire of batsman-dismissing techniques. But if that is the case, why the need for the hand-and-finger-painted directions for the pavilion? The batsman is done and dusted; the walk to the showers has commenced. What mental disintegration needs to be carried out at this stage? Or are we now to be told that a little stomp on the opponent is necessary, an advance sledge for the next innings, the next game?

Sometimes we need to be exposed to a particularly egregious instance of bad-mannered - and in Stokes' case, ill-timed and tactically deficient - behaviour to see that apologia for it are just that. Stokes' callowness will probably have earned him some reprieves for this particular display, but all those who are more experienced than him, and should, hopefully, know better, should not meet with any approval for theirs.

That sort of triumphalism is distasteful in the extreme; the contest has ended, the bowler has won. That's all there should be to it. Some banter, hopefully witty, a few glares, the odd stomped foot or two, perhaps even a snide wisecrack; these all might be tolerable additions to a fielding side's arsenal. But the post-wicket jeer? I cannot imagine a coherent defence in its favour.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • S_Sen on January 9, 2014, 23:38 GMT

    Couldn't agree more. This is part of the continuing baseballification of cricket. Next thing you know, it will be acceptable for players will run out of the "dug-out" (ghastly term) and brawl with each other. As usual, the Australians will do it best, but Indians of Virat Kohli's generation will give them a run for their money. It makes one nostalgic for the "bad manners" of Ian Chappell and Tony Greig's generation, which was benign in comparison.

  • fguy on January 9, 2014, 20:54 GMT

    dale steyn's send offs are becoming too unseemly too.

  • sharidas on January 9, 2014, 20:18 GMT

    A send-off usually happens as a tit for tat…In the case of Venkatesh Prasad sending off Aamir Sohail, the batsmen had, after hitting the bowler for a four earlier, indicated that he was going to do it again. Perhaps there was something similar between Stokes and Johnson. Whichever way, send-offs, sledging and excessive show of muscle is the trend..Why, you can see these being aped even in school matches !!!

  • WC96QF on January 9, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    Tho this is not strictly sledging, it does bring up a very bad taste in the mouth of what sledging can be. It really has nothing to do with the game of cricket; it's a vicious assault on the person for what he is. Deliberately trying to distract a player is like shining a mirror into an archers eye, as he's just abt to release the arrow; or like poking a boxer in his eye- where's the fair play in his ? Sport is abt both sides playing at their best, not abt one guy tripping up the other. The English brought out phrases like 'it's not cricket' when something was not fair. Strangely it's them and Aus., who are champions of sledging- it's just pure hypocrisy. As to a send off, the bowling team can show their joy in celebrating a wicket. Anything more is just childish!

  • dabbadubba on January 9, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    this was a boring series from 2 middle level teams.. so incidents like this are needed to make it fun for the spectator

  • on January 9, 2014, 16:09 GMT

    I don't really understand the thrust of the argument. Yes, Stokes "sending-off" Johnson looked silly. But if Stokes was the dominant player and Johnson the failure, would that make it OK? "Sending-off" batsman is always wrong. I always like looking at Laker during his 19 wickets. After yet another wicket, he just turns around and gets ready to take the next.

  • ThinkingCricket on January 9, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Playing professional sports is highly stressful and emotionally taxing. It's very easy to sit on a sofa while watching and question the need for emotion, but a send-off is just that a release of pent-up emotion. It's part of the game and there's no need to further robotify cricket.

  • AntonKL on January 9, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    No mention of Kohli giving de Kock a send after he had scored 135 in 42 overs in an ODI?

  • Kula_Bowls_Inswing on January 9, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    Giving a batsman a send-off reduces cricket to a petty game of one-upmanship. It isn't sledging, it's just an opportunity to gloat. It's doubtful that any international players are bothered by it, but sport can and should be about so much more than rubbing it in your opponent's face after you've got one over on them.

  • Charith99 on January 9, 2014, 12:48 GMT

    Hmmmm... Their was a guy who took 800 test wickets without giving a single send off. Try and beat him!!!!!!

  • S_Sen on January 9, 2014, 23:38 GMT

    Couldn't agree more. This is part of the continuing baseballification of cricket. Next thing you know, it will be acceptable for players will run out of the "dug-out" (ghastly term) and brawl with each other. As usual, the Australians will do it best, but Indians of Virat Kohli's generation will give them a run for their money. It makes one nostalgic for the "bad manners" of Ian Chappell and Tony Greig's generation, which was benign in comparison.

  • fguy on January 9, 2014, 20:54 GMT

    dale steyn's send offs are becoming too unseemly too.

  • sharidas on January 9, 2014, 20:18 GMT

    A send-off usually happens as a tit for tat…In the case of Venkatesh Prasad sending off Aamir Sohail, the batsmen had, after hitting the bowler for a four earlier, indicated that he was going to do it again. Perhaps there was something similar between Stokes and Johnson. Whichever way, send-offs, sledging and excessive show of muscle is the trend..Why, you can see these being aped even in school matches !!!

  • WC96QF on January 9, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    Tho this is not strictly sledging, it does bring up a very bad taste in the mouth of what sledging can be. It really has nothing to do with the game of cricket; it's a vicious assault on the person for what he is. Deliberately trying to distract a player is like shining a mirror into an archers eye, as he's just abt to release the arrow; or like poking a boxer in his eye- where's the fair play in his ? Sport is abt both sides playing at their best, not abt one guy tripping up the other. The English brought out phrases like 'it's not cricket' when something was not fair. Strangely it's them and Aus., who are champions of sledging- it's just pure hypocrisy. As to a send off, the bowling team can show their joy in celebrating a wicket. Anything more is just childish!

  • dabbadubba on January 9, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    this was a boring series from 2 middle level teams.. so incidents like this are needed to make it fun for the spectator

  • on January 9, 2014, 16:09 GMT

    I don't really understand the thrust of the argument. Yes, Stokes "sending-off" Johnson looked silly. But if Stokes was the dominant player and Johnson the failure, would that make it OK? "Sending-off" batsman is always wrong. I always like looking at Laker during his 19 wickets. After yet another wicket, he just turns around and gets ready to take the next.

  • ThinkingCricket on January 9, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Playing professional sports is highly stressful and emotionally taxing. It's very easy to sit on a sofa while watching and question the need for emotion, but a send-off is just that a release of pent-up emotion. It's part of the game and there's no need to further robotify cricket.

  • AntonKL on January 9, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    No mention of Kohli giving de Kock a send after he had scored 135 in 42 overs in an ODI?

  • Kula_Bowls_Inswing on January 9, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    Giving a batsman a send-off reduces cricket to a petty game of one-upmanship. It isn't sledging, it's just an opportunity to gloat. It's doubtful that any international players are bothered by it, but sport can and should be about so much more than rubbing it in your opponent's face after you've got one over on them.

  • Charith99 on January 9, 2014, 12:48 GMT

    Hmmmm... Their was a guy who took 800 test wickets without giving a single send off. Try and beat him!!!!!!

  • SeamingWicket on January 9, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    McGrath was well known for his verbal exchanges with batsmen Shane Warne took it a step further by throwing the ball at the batsman when he got frustrated Ambrose hardly reacted in anyway most of the time All world class bowlers though

  • on January 9, 2014, 11:50 GMT

    A number of comments so far have tried to describe why bowlers give send offs. "Venting", the bowler being "up for it", to "let off a bit of steam". This has little to do with the point of the author's post.

    Samir did not ask "Why do bowlers give send offs", but posed a normative question - "Why should bowlers give send offs". As he points out, even if send offs are a part of the larger set of interactions known as sledging, they serve no purpose other than to show the bowler in a poor light.

    I'd suggest that perhaps send offs are precisely the opposite of the cold blooded, deliberate acts of sledging that are designed to get inside the batsman's head. Abuse is easy to identify and should not be classed with sledging. Send offs, as I see them are usually a case of a bowler getting carried away and not being able to help himself. They probably happen before a bowler can stop himself, usually within a couple of seconds of the play being completed.

  • armchairjohnny on January 9, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    Personally, I think send-offs add a much needed sense of drama to the game (remember Venkatesh Prasad and Aamir Sohail in the 96 WC?). I was impressed with Mitch in the recent Ashes series, I for one had really missed good old fashioned fast bowling -- and the aggressive attitude that goes with it. With all the flat pitches around in international cricket, bowlers have every right to want to tear a batsman's head of ;)

  • Iddo555 on January 9, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    I loved Stokes's send up to Johnson, he's had England under the gun and Stokes showed he was up for the fight

  • Harlequin. on January 9, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    Yeah, the heat of the moment yelling and letting off steam is fairly natural when you have been as frustrated as Stokes would have been through the series. Those I don't usually mind.

    There was one send off recently which will stick in my head for the wrong reasons for a while though and that was Philanders to Rahane in the second test. Rahane had batted brilliantly with the tail, and fell 4 runs short of a ton trying to get quick runs before the last wicket fell. Philander bowled him as Rahane was trying to smack him out of the park, so it wasn't exactly good bowling which got him out but still Philander sent him on his way, blowing kisses at him. Rightfully, Smith congratulated Rahane on the way off, but Philander made himself out to be a bit of a pillock in my opinion.

  • on January 9, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    why do you care...the bowler is just giving vent to his anger....just because you teach philosophy dont feel a need to dissect everything last thing...

  • on January 9, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    Nothing much to reflect upon here.Stokes was obviously frustrated and was letting off some steam. Dale steyn yawning after dismissing a batsman ; that was petty but since he later apologised ,it's fine. Pointless article.

  • Skudd on January 9, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    Your articles are usually quite enjoyable Samir but this one makes a mountain out of molehill. "Despicable" - really?

    It is not that difficult to understand why someone would want to let off a bit of steam - ESPECIALLY when the opponent in question has tormented your team as Johnson tormented England.

    Petty? Yes. Natural? Absolutely.

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  • Skudd on January 9, 2014, 9:33 GMT

    Your articles are usually quite enjoyable Samir but this one makes a mountain out of molehill. "Despicable" - really?

    It is not that difficult to understand why someone would want to let off a bit of steam - ESPECIALLY when the opponent in question has tormented your team as Johnson tormented England.

    Petty? Yes. Natural? Absolutely.

  • on January 9, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    Nothing much to reflect upon here.Stokes was obviously frustrated and was letting off some steam. Dale steyn yawning after dismissing a batsman ; that was petty but since he later apologised ,it's fine. Pointless article.

  • on January 9, 2014, 10:17 GMT

    why do you care...the bowler is just giving vent to his anger....just because you teach philosophy dont feel a need to dissect everything last thing...

  • Harlequin. on January 9, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    Yeah, the heat of the moment yelling and letting off steam is fairly natural when you have been as frustrated as Stokes would have been through the series. Those I don't usually mind.

    There was one send off recently which will stick in my head for the wrong reasons for a while though and that was Philanders to Rahane in the second test. Rahane had batted brilliantly with the tail, and fell 4 runs short of a ton trying to get quick runs before the last wicket fell. Philander bowled him as Rahane was trying to smack him out of the park, so it wasn't exactly good bowling which got him out but still Philander sent him on his way, blowing kisses at him. Rightfully, Smith congratulated Rahane on the way off, but Philander made himself out to be a bit of a pillock in my opinion.

  • Iddo555 on January 9, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    I loved Stokes's send up to Johnson, he's had England under the gun and Stokes showed he was up for the fight

  • armchairjohnny on January 9, 2014, 10:58 GMT

    Personally, I think send-offs add a much needed sense of drama to the game (remember Venkatesh Prasad and Aamir Sohail in the 96 WC?). I was impressed with Mitch in the recent Ashes series, I for one had really missed good old fashioned fast bowling -- and the aggressive attitude that goes with it. With all the flat pitches around in international cricket, bowlers have every right to want to tear a batsman's head of ;)

  • on January 9, 2014, 11:50 GMT

    A number of comments so far have tried to describe why bowlers give send offs. "Venting", the bowler being "up for it", to "let off a bit of steam". This has little to do with the point of the author's post.

    Samir did not ask "Why do bowlers give send offs", but posed a normative question - "Why should bowlers give send offs". As he points out, even if send offs are a part of the larger set of interactions known as sledging, they serve no purpose other than to show the bowler in a poor light.

    I'd suggest that perhaps send offs are precisely the opposite of the cold blooded, deliberate acts of sledging that are designed to get inside the batsman's head. Abuse is easy to identify and should not be classed with sledging. Send offs, as I see them are usually a case of a bowler getting carried away and not being able to help himself. They probably happen before a bowler can stop himself, usually within a couple of seconds of the play being completed.

  • SeamingWicket on January 9, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    McGrath was well known for his verbal exchanges with batsmen Shane Warne took it a step further by throwing the ball at the batsman when he got frustrated Ambrose hardly reacted in anyway most of the time All world class bowlers though

  • Charith99 on January 9, 2014, 12:48 GMT

    Hmmmm... Their was a guy who took 800 test wickets without giving a single send off. Try and beat him!!!!!!

  • Kula_Bowls_Inswing on January 9, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    Giving a batsman a send-off reduces cricket to a petty game of one-upmanship. It isn't sledging, it's just an opportunity to gloat. It's doubtful that any international players are bothered by it, but sport can and should be about so much more than rubbing it in your opponent's face after you've got one over on them.