August 24, 2014

The joy of seeing a sledger receive his comeuppance

It's deeply satisfying to see a known potty mouth, especially one who has wound up your team, be defeated on the field - though it doesn't always work out that way

Indian fans had to suffer the ignominy of a series defeat and the tremendous success of enemy No. 1 James Anderson © Getty Images

As Jimmy Anderson turned at the top of his bowling run-up to steam in to Ravi Jadeja during India's first innings in Manchester, a familiar, and sickening, sense of despair enveloped me.

Anderson had taken the previous three balls away from Jadeja and everyone - as the commentators on Sky intoned - sensed the next would straighten into him. I also knew it was very likely Jadeja would play all around it and get bowled or be caught plumb in front, as had happened in the previous Test. Like a replay of a horror-movie sequence, that's exactly what happened and Jadeja became the fourth Indian batsman to be out for a duck (two more of which were to come). India were duly hammered by an innings defeat in under three days.

Anderson sneered as Jadeja - looking down and away - walked past him to the pavilion.

Everyone, of course, knows the back story to this encounter that made it of more than ordinary import: allegations of pushing and shoving, of verbal altercations, of Level 3 complaints and possible bans, lawyers and judgements, and all the rest of it. Anderson has got under the skin of his opponents on the field, including the normally stoic MS Dhoni, and of millions of Indian cricket fans off it, all of whom would have loved nothing more than to see him shrivel in defeat. Instead, he has taken wickets by the bucketful, notched the only 50-plus score of his entire career (Tests or first-class), and was a lock for Man of the Series. The more he succeeds, the greater our misery.

There is something deliciously satisfying about watching a known sledger get his comeuppance not through commissions of inquiry or even the perfect verbal riposte - but rather in the course of the game itself. Michael Clarke revealed the depths of pent-up Aussie anger against Anderson for all his chatter over the previous two Ashes series - both won handily by the English, with Anderson being a major reason for the victories - when he threatened Anderson with a broken arm for whingeing to an umpire. And in Mitchell Johnson, Clarke had an enforcer ready and able to deliver on the threat. But the real moment of satisfaction for the Aussies, and one that Anderson will cringe to remember, was his final over in the decisive Perth Test (England's last chance to avert losing the Ashes) that went 4, 6, 2, 4, 6, 6 - 28 runs hit off it by journeyman George Bailey and into the books for most runs conceded in an over. Anderson's figures of 105 runs from19 overs for no wickets in that innings are there for all to see.

The only satisfaction would have been if Anderson went wicketless in every innings while being carted for hundreds of runs, had been dismissed cheaply each time he got to the crease, and, of course, if India had won the series

Glenn McGrath, another great exponent of the moving ball and the mobile lip, got into an infamous altercation with Ramnaresh Sarwan during the fourth Test for the Frank Worrell Trophy back in 2003 in Antigua. Sarwan won that encounter verbally (with a comment that cannot be repeated on a G-rated website such as this one) but what ensures its longevity is that his century helped West Indies overhaul the Aussies in a record-setting victory. Long after the memory of Sarwan's retort and his own meltdown has faded, McGrath will remember that he was part of a bowling attack that was unable to defend 417 runs in the fourth innings of a Test match.

Dennis Lillee has had his share of encounters - verbal and otherwise - with opponents. In the third Test against India in Melbourne back in 1981, he won an lbw decision against Sunny Gavaskar, who had made 70 hard-fought runs. When the latter lingered at the crease indicating he had got an inside edge onto the ball, Lillee's comments ordering him on his way so enraged Sunny that he dragged his partner, Chetan Chauhan, off with him. Had the Indian manager not intervened to make sure Chauhan did not leave the field, India might have ended up conceding the match. Sunny's pique and Lillee's antics set the stage for a visceral encounter of epic proportions. Needing just 143 to win in the fourth innings and India minus a bowler (Shivlal Yadav having pulled up short) it looked like the Aussies would wrap up the series 2-0.

A stunning 5 for 28 from Kapil Dev, with tremendous support from Dilip Doshi and Karsan Ghavri, triggered a collapse and Australia were bowled out for 83. Lillee himself, no mug with the bat, was clean-bowled by Kapil for just 4. Of his Test victories as captain, I doubt Sunny will remember any with a greater sense of satisfaction. And for Indian fans, a rare overseas victory (in Melbourne, no less) came with the added pleasure of having tied the series and proven a point to Lillee.

As I examine my feelings about all this, I am struck by the importance of the visceral register in sporting encounters. For an Indian cricket fan, even assuming Anderson had been guilty of all that he had been charged with, justice would have been ill-served by getting him banned for a couple of Tests. In fact, if anything, it would have detracted from anything positive the Indians accomplished. The only satisfaction would have been if Anderson went wicketless in every innings while being carted for hundreds of runs, had been dismissed cheaply each time he got to the crease, and, of course, if India had won the series. If, for good measure, India's fast bowlers had dinged his helmet a couple of times and given him a bruise or three, so much the better.

For the English fan, on the other hand, Anderson's exoneration off the field hardly compares to the incredible vindication on it: he out-thought and outplayed the Indians at every turn, and looked lethal every time he ran in to bowl. Whatever the merits of the complaint that Dhoni and the Indians brought against him, Anderson's riposte was awesome. Ironically, for someone known for his verbiage, he let his game do all the talking.

Indians will remember the series with pain, not merely because of the one-sided scorecards but more so because they never managed to wipe that smirk off Anderson's face. As India continue their gyre into the abyss, the defeats hurt fans where it matters most - in the viscera.

Sankaran Krishna is a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy on August 27, 2014, 23:01 GMT

    Amazing write up.. An Indian living in Pacific jewel teaching the Americans politics.. Writing about cricket in UK.. Makes It even more interesting!!

  • raj on August 26, 2014, 15:32 GMT

    The best thing Jadeja could have done (for India) after getting shoved was to swing his bat in the direction of Anderson and hopefully caught him on the shin - Jadeja's ability with the bat makes that a highly low percentage play though. Wonder if the adjudicator would have let off both players for a lack of evidence and contradictory stories then.

  • Dummy4 on August 26, 2014, 0:16 GMT

    In short, results and individual performances will be remembered long after sledges are forgotten. Better to let the bat and ball do the talking.

  • Dummy4 on August 25, 2014, 4:02 GMT

    Australians fast bowlers and all Australian players are very mean and tough on the field. Especially when it looks like the opposition team in doing much better that them. So they deserved what Anderson gave. There should be someone who can stick it to Aussies. I am an Indian cricket fan but also someone who thinks Anderson is a great bowler - so not all Indians hate Anderson. I think players should be allowed to have some amount of aggression on the field. Just watch Kohli as RCB captain. He is aggressive and at times abusive too. Anderson must have learnt his lesson about being overly abusive. Jaddu got out to Anderson and Anderson got out to Jaddu. There is no need to write so many articles about this and to try to cause a permanent rift between the 2 teams. We all support aussie players when they play for IPL teams. Who knows - Jaddu and Jimmy might end up playing for the same team sometime.

  • Dummy4 on August 24, 2014, 16:06 GMT

    At the end of the day, the quality of on pitch performance is what matters. From an image and integrity point of view you could argue that cricket cannot condone sledging. However, these players are professionals and they should do everything to ensure that their performance reflects that. They shouldn't whine and get out just because the opposition sledges them or is not nice to them. They should take care of their performance first and then start to complain about the sledging and behaviour of the opposition. Anderson took care of his performance. Jadeja did not. I know which player I would rather have in my team.

  • Jonathan on August 24, 2014, 15:08 GMT

    Seems McGrath has a habit of coming off worst in sledging battles - just ask Eddo Brandes.

  • Natarajan on August 24, 2014, 14:24 GMT

    Nice article. It is said that in the 2010 series in South Africa, Steyn sledged the great Tendulkar and in return Tendulkar is supposed to have retorted that Steyn would never again get his wicket. And true to that, Steyn could never claim Tendulkar's wicket again. That is what fighting is all about. You should have the guts and the fighting spirit in cricket to ensure that the sledger is made to eat humble pie. Today's Indian cricketers are not made of strong stuff. They are weaklings who shiver at the sight of fast bowlers, even if they are hardly fast. Guys like Anderson would have been put in their place had the opponent been a Australia or South Africa. Alas the Indian team not even a Srilanka forget Australia or South Africa.

  • Ian on August 24, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    Well, potty-mouth Virat Kohli has his come-uppance! Wasn't that fun to watch?

  • xxxxx on August 24, 2014, 9:58 GMT

    International cricket is certainly"visceral" (visceral: characterised by intuition or instinct rather than intellect - Collins Dictionary). With a 90mph projectile about to hit your head like an Exocet missile how can it be any different?

    As a neutral I quite enjoyed Varun Aarun bowling fast and returning fire during the recent Tests and some of my most memorable moments and the best cricket I have witnessed over decades (e.g Allan Donald v Mike Atherton) have also stirred the emotions.

    What surprises me is the unreal expectations some commentators and fans have on our cricketers i.e. to be visceral one moment and then be genteel the next and heaven help anyone who lets the visceral stray when it shouldn't, even for a split second. Perhaps we should not lose sight of the fact that cricketers are human after all.

  • rob on August 24, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    @ HarshBeria: I think it was an attempt at a repeat of 2007. Didn't work this time though.

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