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

    Test cricket needs fewer teams, not more

Ian Chappell: It's clear that for the ICC votes mean more than results

    Lara's peaks

Tony Cozier: While the 375 had a sense of inevitability to it, the 400 came amid a backdrop of strikes and the threat of a whitewash

    The world record that nearly wasn't

Rewind: Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it

    An archaelogical probe into the state of the game

Review: Gideon Haigh comes out with another set of essays that sound uncannily prescient about the way the game is headed

The home invasion

Hassan Cheema: The Emirates have been Pakistan's home away from home for three decades. To see the IPL being played there must feel like betrayal

News | Features Last 7 days

UAE all set to host lavish welcoming party

The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006

Attention on Yuvraj, Gambhir in IPL 2014

ESPNcricinfo picks five players for whom this IPL is of bigger significance

The watch breaker, and Malinga specials

The Plays of the day from the match between Kolkata and Mumbai, in Abu Dhabi

India: cricket's Brazil

It's difficult to beat a huge talent base exposed to good facilities, and possessed of a long history of competing as a nation

The captain's blunder

The Plays of the day from the match between Chennai and Punjab in Abu Dhabi

News | Features Last 7 days