December 28, 2014

Enough with the on-field chatter

One of these days there's going to be an ugly altercation between players on the field

There's a difference between gamesmanship and verbal intimidation; the former adds colour and humour to the game, the latter breeds hostility © AFP

On-field chatter was on the agenda again after the Gabba Test. The question being asked was: Why did India taunt Mitchell Johnson? The more important question is: Why does cricket allow so much on-field chatter?

The more players talk on the field, the more the likelihood there is of something personal being said. If something personal is said at the wrong time, there will eventually be an altercation on the field. When that happens it will be players who are punished and as is almost always the case, the administrators will escape scot-free, despite being guilty of allowing the problem to escalate to this point.

Apart from the danger of an altercation on the field - and if you don't think that could be ugly, just remember two players have bats in hand - there is the simple matter of the batsman being entitled to peace and quiet while he's out in the middle. I'm surprised more batsmen don't object to the inane chatter that regularly occurs in the guise of gamesmanship. And if I hear one more player, coach or official say this chatter is "part of the game", I'll lose my lunch.

What will happen if a batsman - and the sooner one summons up the courage to do so the better - starts talking to the bowler as he begins his run to the wicket? Will he be told by the umpire to desist? Sure he will. The batsman would then be entitled to ask the umpire: "So is only one team allowed to talk out here?" Perhaps it will take such a scenario to make the administrators realise this is not an acceptable part of the game. The issue needs to be addressed seriously and promptly.

I don't have any problem with gamesmanship. This is the thoughtful and often humorous use of wit to entice an unsuspecting player into losing his concentration. When bowling into the footmarks to Sourav Ganguly from round the wicket, Shane Warne provided a classic example of gamesmanship. After Ganguly had let a couple of balls go, Warne remarked; "Hey mate, the crowd didn't pay their money to watch you let balls go. They came here to see this little bloke [pointing to Sachin Tendulkar at the non-striker's end] play shots."

If a batsman is silly enough to fall for such a ploy then more fool him. Gamesmanship has been part of cricket since its inception and it's also been responsible for a lot of the humour that adds colour to the descriptions of the contest. There's a big difference between gamesmanship and personal abuse, or the constant inane chatter fielders use to try to distract batsmen.

Any abuse should result in the offender being spoken to in no uncertain terms by the umpires. If it continues then the offender should be hit with a substantial suspension, one that will cause him and other players to think twice before they mouth off again. And umpires should be told by the administrators that they will be backed to the hilt in an endeavour to rid the game of both abuse and excessive chatter.

One of the big mistakes touring sides make is trying to play Australia at their own game. There has always been a bit of needling/gamesmanship in the Australian first-class game because the players know each other so well.

However, in the past this was laughed off after play with the aid of a cold drink, and the next day's play commenced with a clean slate. As socialising after play doesn't often occur so much now in the international game, the previous day's hostilities are still fresh the next morning and it doesn't take much to re-ignite the fuse.

India made a mistake in taunting Johnson at the Gabba. The administrators will be making an even bigger blunder if they don't crack down on excessive on-field chatter, and it's the players who will pay a hefty price if this issue is left unresolved.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on January 19, 2015, 6:46 GMT

    wondering what Chappel had to say when Ponting n McGrath went at it against the opposition. pretty sure it wasn't all gamesmanship as he says

  • gary on January 2, 2015, 10:41 GMT

    India has produced cricketing greats,to say the least, in the last 20 years.Apart from being cricket geniuses they were exemplary gentlemen.They were gentlemanly to the point to being cowardly.And not very infrequently Baggy greens intimidated them at their will.No questions asked.No actions questioned. It was praised as the hubris of the champion.Virtue of the winner.But let me remind you it was never 'humorous wit' for those at the recieving end.

    And then someone dared to react to the aggressor and he was branded a racist. Immediately.'Winners' did not like the taste of their own medicine.

    Now we have a generation who will give you back.Mind it,they only give you back.They are not aggressor.They dont initiate feuds.But they dont think a second if you are being bully.You smile at them and they will give a broader grin.You hate them and they hate you more.But never will they start it.Such are gentlemen of my country.

    Australia.. Dont be cry baby and face some music now!


  • Jay on January 2, 2015, 0:34 GMT

    Chappelli's column is timely! The next Test is at SCG - site of the infamous 2008 match. It witnessed the worst acts of on-field misconduct - sledging, grounded catching, dissent, umpire pressuring, triumphalism & bad sportsmanship. In the aftermath of the ugly Harbhajan-Symonds spat, all hell broke loose - controversial match-referee inquiry, threat to abandon tour, outside judge hearing, reduced Bhajji penalty, strong public backlash & media frenzy! Cricket was humiliated. ICC was put on notice. It failed to uphold the rules of cricket. Other sports are way ahead. Even in a full-contact violent sport like American football, NFL has cracked down on trash talk, racial slurs, taunting & excess celebrations with fines, ejections & suspensions. Tennis has taken steps to outlaw on-court misconduct, even "racket abuse"! Yet cricket does nothing about "verbal abuse" of fellow human beings? That's absurd. The buck stops here: ICC must take back control of the game and enforce action!!

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2015, 0:29 GMT

    The simples thing would be for a microphone to be given each player(both batsmen and fileding team), and the umpires or match officials can access anything said if the other team appeals. This way, all the players will be on their toes to avoid saying anything provoking.

  • naresh on January 1, 2015, 18:07 GMT

    Dear Mr Chappel,

    Since the Aussies started all this crap and have been doin git for all these years - how about you guys unilaterally shutting up and wait for the others to follow suit?

    This is the same like Western countries preaching "free mqarket" to all and sundry and then starting to cry when the other countries became more competitive.

    Meanwhile, the Indians should also steadfastly start preaching about "not crossing the line" ad-nauseum in press conferences, just like every sundry Aussie does. And continue BAU on the field. They should also mention the word "intergrity, spirit of cricket" every once in a while in press meets. THATS the "right" way to do it.

  • Jon on January 1, 2015, 3:01 GMT

    Ian Chappell… are you kidding me?! Australia are the undisputed world champs at dishing out on field verbal (even racial) abuse at opposition players, and they've been doing it since the 70s.

    And now that Kohli, or whoever, are giving a little bit back it's a suddenly a major problem and the ICC needs to step in? What a ridiculous notion.

    The only thing that's different about this series is that one or 2 of the Indian players are making a point of doing to Australia what they have done to all touring teams for decades.

  • Jay on January 1, 2015, 1:30 GMT

    The current Oz-Ind series has already seen ugly spats - though nothing compared to the infamous 2008 SCG match. Not as yet. But the time-bomb is ticking. All it takes is the quick fuse of agitated players to ignite the flash point. Only a handful have been disciplined. Kohli (30% match fee), Dhawan & Warner (15%) at Adelaide. Then Ishant Sharma (15%) for inappropriate language at Brisbane. But here's the biggest irony: Match referee Crowe docked Smith (60%) & his team (30% each) for a slow over-rate offence. LOL! Go figure! Yes, India made a mistake in taunting Johnson at the Gabba. But so did the Aussies for their relentless sledging of Kohli at MCG. There's a fine line between "hard cricket" & "ugly gamesmanship." Stop the "mental disintegration" tactics. Cricket officials need to take back control of the game to avoid another SCG crisis. Sadly SCG is also the site of the Hughes tragedy. Let's hope cricket turns a new leaf in 2015 in the spirit of Hughes! ICC: Let's start with SCG!!!

  • Joseph on December 31, 2014, 22:13 GMT

    Nice article, ICC must crack this down, if they can suspend players for illegal bowling, they must also do the same for sledging.Why always AUS and ENG gets away from this, and I cannot agree when players of australia thinks its part of the game,ABSURD!.

  • Fallon on December 31, 2014, 17:48 GMT

    There is no gamesmanship out there any more. Steve Waugh has introduced us into verbal intimidation and mental disintegration. If sledging is gamesmanship then the spectators will enjoy the chatter. Let us increase the stump mic volume. If it is not impose one match ban on the players, plain and simple.

    I do not think any change can be expected with sledging rules unless and until something huge happens on the field. Clarke Steyn, Anderson Jadeja and now Johnson Kohli incidents are beginning to creep up. Give it another year or two the authorities will be forced to do something, until then enjoy the free ride.

  • Hari on December 30, 2014, 18:15 GMT

    I do not support sledging or personal comments made at fellow cricketers.. The great Windies team did not indulge in sledging and I doubt if any one had the guts to sledge them.. Indian team needs to keep their mouths shut and let their game do the talking.. I am still okay with glares and stares from bowlers after a good delivery or a extended follow through to let the batsman know you are there.. be aggressive in your game and play hard.. no one needs to know your abusive or sledging skills esp in public..

    Mr Kohli..cricketers who brought pride to Indian cricket be it Kapil or Gavaskar or Ganguly or Tendulkar or Dravid or Laxman or Kumble or MSD. when they spoke the world took SERIOUS notice.. Remember Kumbles statement .. "Only one team seemed to be playing in the Spirit of the game" ...The entire world including the Aussies took notice.. Play hard, be generous in your praise for opposition and be passionate in your game.. but NO VERBALS pls.. Sledging and Verbals are for KIDS!!!

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