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A history of sledging, part two

In which we learn horrid truths about the Don, Dougie J, Warnie and others

Alan Tyers
Harbhajan Singh appeals for an lbw, Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians, IPL 2014, Ahmedabad, May 19, 2014

Harbhajan Singh was once unjustly accused of referring to Andrew Symonds by the title of Marquis  •  BCCI

Last week we learned how cricket has been plagued by aggression and abuse since its earliest days and that potty-mouthed bullies like David Warner are merely standing on the shoulders of the game's giants. Here we discover more about the development of on-field aggro.
The period from the 1890s until the First World War is regarded as the Golden Age of sledging. Figures like Ranji and CB Fry dazzled crowds with the elegance of their repartee, and the cavalier approach to industrial language, as long as there were no ladies present. But it was the Australian Victor Trumper who is most associated with the Golden Age, epitomised by the famous picture of him leaping out of his crease to attack a close fielder with a perfectly timed "Mate, how does it feel to have dropped the Queen's Empire Trophy?"
The late '20s saw the debut of the man who would become beyond question the greatest sledger the game has seen. But Donald Bradman was just as famous for nearly being on the wrong end of a legendary sledge, when he scoffed at Alec Bedser, "There's no way you're good enough to be playing for England." Bedser shot back "Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my family." Always keen to have the last word, the Don replied, "Bollocks", much to the amusement of the slip cordon, and was knighted as a result.
Modern sledging as we know it today was born when Douglas Jardine travelled to Australia on the Bodyline tour with a whole game plan specifically designed to curb the acid wit of Bradman. The fearsome deployment of the technique "the wife's fine, but the kids are retarded" every time Bradman came to the crease was highly controversial at the time and almost led to an international incident as well as a moratorium on offensive and politically incorrect words like "kids" rather than the more correct "children".
One of the great rivalries in sledging was that between Denis Compton and Keith Miller, which is still honoured to this day in the Miller Time Straight Out of Compton Medal, awarded to the English or Australian player who comes up with the most insulting remark about an opponent's mother during an Ashes Test. The rivalry began when Miller, asked by frustrated team-mates how they could ever get Compton out, remarked, "Put a Mars bar on a length, that should do it." Seeing the Mars bar on a good length on the Oval pitch, Compton attempted to advertise it in a newspaper article, lost concentration and was caught at leg slip.
And of course, the most famous sledge of them all came when Shane Warne faced his "bunny", Daryll Cullinan. "I've been waiting two years for another chance to bowl at you," said Warne. Quick as a flash, Cullinan replied, "Tickets please!" Warne was so bemused that he retired from public life immediately.

More historical inaccuracies at