South Africa in India 2007-08 March 24, 2008

'You shouldn't overstep the mark' - Boucher

Mark Boucher is hoping that both upcoming series against India will be contested in the right spirit © AFP

Mark Boucher, South Africa's wicketkeeper, has welcomed the ICC's request for better player behaviour but feels that it will be difficult for players to put a complete stop to sledging. He hoped the upcoming series against India will be played in the right spirit, with both sides understanding where to draw the boundaries.

"We haven't got a briefing [from within the team]," he said two days before the start of series. "[But] we're all mature enough to realise what we can and cannot do. You talk about sledging, I don't think that's ever going to completely leave the game. You've got two very competitive sides playing for their country, it's always going to be there.

"Hopefully the series will be played in the right spirit of the game, I know that's what I'm going to do. It's going to be very competitive and that's what everyone wants to see. So long as everything is kept above board and played in the right spirit, there shouldn't be a problem."

Boucher has not shunned away from a bit of chat himself and, early in 2006, criticised the Australians for their on-field barbs. He even said, "I have lost respect for one or two of their players". However, he felt the situation could be in control if the players know when to stop.

"Look, you shouldn't overstep the mark," he said. "The match referees are going to look to make an example of things if you overstep the mark, especially with all the hype coming from the India-Australia series. Players will have to do things in a clever way to get that extra advantage but you don't want to lose this because it will take away the competitive streak."

The ICC recently sent out a note, urging players to improve their behaviour. "Players are asked to take their responsibility as role models seriously and to make an effort to improve their behaviour in this regard," the note said. "Captains are requested to lead by example and to ensure that they keep tight control over the behaviour of their players."

The move comes on the back of India's fractious tour of Australia, one that saw several on-field controversies. Harbhajan Singh was in the centre of the storm on a few occasions but Boucher felt it was important to know the limits. "Like I said it's about the competitive nature on the field," he said. "I'm fighting hard for my country, he's fighting hard for his country. Both of us have never overstepped the mark and hopefully that will continue in this series."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo