Events and people that shaped the game

No. 35

The advent of sledging

Cricket's tag as a "gentleman's game" has taken a beating in modern times. Australia, and Allan Border can take some credit for that

November 28, 2010

Text size: A | A

Face off: Paul Collingwood squares up to Matthew Hayden, England v Australia,  Edgbaston, June 28, 2005
'You don't like my face? Well, I don't like your attitude" © Getty Images
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Allan Border
Teams: Australia

1989

Cricket takes a long time and is often played in hot weather, and its legislation not only countenances but explicitly encourages a degree of aggression: unlike most games, one must seek an adjudication by appealing. No wonder tempers fray and terse words are exchanged.

In the modern game, however, what is euphemistically known as "sledging" is not said with a hot head but in cold blood. Australians have led the way in making verbal intimidation part of their psychological campaigns against opponents. Steve Waugh called it "mental disintegration".

Many fingers are pointed where sledging is concerned, and double standards exhibited. A salient distinction is between that arising in the normal course of play, and that introduced with premeditation. In practising the latter, Waugh drew on the example of his first captain, Allan Border. There had been sledging before Border, but probably not until the 1989 Ashes series had it been part of an articulated plan.

Ironically, Border was provoked by criticism that he was too soft, too friendly, towards English players. "This time I'll be tougher," he thought. David Gower, his counterpart, recalled the experience as unsettling: "He was mean to the opposition, the press, and indeed his own players. He sledged pretty fiercely, which is something that doesn't normally bother me… although on this tour it was hyper-unfriendly." As Border later confided to him: "I've been through all sorts of ups and downs with my team, but this time we had a bloody good chance to win. I was prepared to be as ruthless as I could be to stuff you up."

Australia won the Ashes 4-0, and did not surrender the Ashes till 2005. The association between success and snarling truculence was firmly embedded, to the extent that many teams other than Australia regard the latter as a precondition of the former. Mental disintegration? Or ethical?

This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2003

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print

    'Swann could bowl length blindfolded'

Erapalli Prasanna on a thoroughbred professional whose basics were extraordinarily strong

    Does Yorkshire's win bode well for England?

Rob Steen: Historically a strong Yorkshire has acted as a supply line for the Test team, and the current crop hints at longevity

Champions League T20 still battling for meaning

The thrills are rather low-octane, and the tournament overly India-centric. On several counts, it is not yet a global T20 showpiece event

    'My kind of bowling style is gone now'

Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament

The joy of staying not-out overnight

Samir Chopra: It is one not reserved for those at high levels: the most exalted experiences can come in humble settings

News | Features Last 7 days

From Constantine to Chanderpaul

As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history

Busy keepers, and Waqar's bowleds

Also, high scores and low averages, most ducks in international cricket, and the 12-year-old Test player

Soaring in the 1980s, slumping in the 2000s

In their pomp, West Indies had a 53-13 win-loss record; in their last 99, it is 16-53. That, in a nutshell, shows how steep the decline has been

'My kind of bowling style is gone now'

Former New Zealand seamer Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up bowling, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament

The contenders to replace Ajmal

Following the bowling ban on Saeed Ajmal, ESPNcricinfo picks five bowlers Pakistan may replace him with for the time being

News | Features Last 7 days