August 17, 2014

It's time we had laws to eliminate sledging

Players should realise that their cricket skills speak louder than the abuse they sometimes dish out in the name of legitimate aggression

Shane Warne was one to emulate for his craft, but not his on-field behaviour © Getty Images

When I look at boorish behaviour on a cricket field, especially that which takes place in full view of millions of followers of the game, I am reminded of a conversation I once had with Indian tennis icon Ramesh Krishnan several years ago. On learning about the arrogant conduct of some cricketers, he asked in genuine puzzlement, "What is the use of your extraordinary talent if you lack good manners and courtesy?" The sport he pursued with great passion and pride had been plagued by the tantrums of the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and even Andre Agassi, but those who run the game have since taken firm steps and stamped out on-court coarseness and abuse altogether in professional tennis.

Does a fast bowler, who has everything going for him - pace, bounce and movement, even the advantage of vicious intimidation, real or feared, need adventitious aids to create doubt in the batsman's mind? And "disintegrate him mentally?" And isn't it humiliating and demeaning for a bowler to have to resort to verbal abuse after a batsman has played some gorgeous shots off his bowling? Can he not let the ball do the talking?

How would it be if the laws permitted batsmen to take a few threatening swings with the bat at bowlers who are troubling them, just to put the fear of God into them? After the batsman has hammered you for a few, isn't bowling an unplayable delivery the ultimate prize, your real badge of honour? And finally, what have you achieved when the batsman conquers your bowling and your abuse? Who's the winner?

The rationale that verbal and body-language aggression is a prerequisite for attacking bowling, or that so-called soft behaviour will somehow emasculate the game does not make sense to me. The great West Indies fast bowlers did not need vocal ammunition, and even the volatile Fred Trueman only indulged in badinage that served to lighten the mood, though the batsman at the receiving end was rarely likely to be amused. The one exception must have been the batsman who once said, "Well bowled, Mr Trueman", after playing and missing a few and eventually getting bowled. Even he must have allowed himself a wry smile when Trueman replied, "That was wasted on tha!" And we all know that some of Trueman's classics were aimed at his own team-mates.

What of chatter from close to the bat? This is certainly the lesser of the two evils, and sometimes even welcome diversion, provided the close-in cordon does not stoop to abuse. Loud conversations between the fielders and the bowler can bring some cheer and amusement, at least to the umpires or struggling bowlers, even if it does not result in the downfall of the batsman. In any case, good batsmen rarely fall to sledging tactics, while the poor ones hardly need to be softened verbally before their eventual dismissal.

The Australians probably pioneered crudity on the cricket ground. Unfortunately, two of them, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, were among the greatest bowlers of all time, especially as a pair, and that fact seemed to justify their rudeness. Australian cricketers of the same era also set new standards of gamesmanship and oneupmanship, by way of dubious catches they claimed and umpiring decisions they argued over, probably paving the way for the DRS.

England are not far behind. Today James Anderson is one of the best pace bowlers in the world, and Stuart Broad his superb ally, but there are other world-class bowlers, fast and slow, who do not seem to need to snarl and curse on the field. Sadly, instead of condemning bullying and offensive behaviour, a large number of English cricketers and commentators seem more concerned about MS Dhoni's charge of a Level 3 offence against Anderson, ready to read ulterior motives into that charge, rather than to criticise the bowler for his excesses. Hopefully, such public posturing apart, good sense will prevail and cricket will see sportsmanship on the field again. As in many dire situations in life, extreme bad behaviour on the field can bring about a welcome clean-up of the sport.

Perhaps legislation is the only way forward to eliminate sledging in cricket, as captains and umpires seem powerless in the face of the rampant abuse that several cricketers - even those whose young children are watching them in action - perpetrate on the field, in the name of legitimate aggression.

V Ramnarayan is an author, translator and teacher. He bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • pervez on August 19, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    doubt if ICC will do anything

  • Phil on August 19, 2014, 4:09 GMT

    I believe sledging is ok as long as you don't make it personal. I would like to know why does Aus & Eng get signalled out on conduct issues when history & evidence suggests all teams have occasional issues with conduct at some point

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    Great article and fully agree with the Author's view points. Let us keep it are playing a game that is a test of skill and has enough nuances in it to make it really interesting. People who really love the game just want to see that. They don't really want to see a sledging match. We need to find another game or platform for that and I am sure there is a market for that too. So bottom line for me is to show zero tolerance and come down with heavy punishment e.g. like banning them for 4 games so that it is not worth doing this. Also once you allow this, it really opens up a Pandora's Box of side issues such as race, religion, color etc. that comes into this more often due to wrong interpretation. No tolerance policy should start very early from school systems all over the we don't want youngsters to grow up in this manner. It needs to be just a game played by Gentlemen, a hard fought game based on cricketing skills.

  • Vignesh on August 18, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    i really like sledging in cricket,brings out the human side of the game or else its just going to be a bunch of mechanical thing going around where one guy throws a ball and the other guy hits it for five days.Thats boring for any one to see,on the contrary a bowler getting hit for a six after giving the batsmen a mouthfull,now thats cricketainment.Hope they dont outlaw sledging

  • kent on August 18, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    I fuilly endores the sentiments of this article. Sledging should be eliminated FOREVER!!!!

  • Kanishka on August 17, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    @ choo_for_twenty_choo you are absolutely correct mate a more recent example was the ENG vs SL series. ENG sledged SL which ultimately fired them up and they won the series.

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2014, 16:50 GMT

    Occasional bust ups happen in any sports. The amount of literature being written on sledging would probably have a novice to the game thinking bust ups like hockey happen every game, with people coming to blows biting or head butting as some defender did in French ligueA. Ribbing a few players with harmless verbals has been part of every sport.That Ganguly ribbed up Steven Waugh by appearing late to toss is another way of doing it.Immoral yes, Illegal Hell no.

  • M on August 17, 2014, 15:50 GMT

    Plain and simple, sledging has no place in Cricket. Hope the "new" ICC does something now. Besides counting the bucks.

  • Charith on August 17, 2014, 14:38 GMT

    did murally sledge , he took a few wickets

  • Alex on August 17, 2014, 14:29 GMT

    Interesting article. Although it misses out mentioning that sledging can also create the exact opposite effect to the result intended. Even the Aussies were wary of sledging Lara or SRT. So it's not really a one-sided, negative tactic to be outlawed.

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