The Long Handle
A cure for sledging
In which we propose an innovative alternative to traditional "gamesmanship"
Blimey. David Warner
, the sewer-mouthed raconteur, part-time pugilist and occasional opening batsman, famous for being chattier than a busload of elderly women and swearier than a Premier League footballer, has changed his ways.
But the news that he will no longer be flapping his gums, agitating his larynx or expelling expletive-stained carbon dioxide in the general direction of his opponents has not gone down well in every quarter.
For example, the staff at Sydney Porcelain Garden Ornaments Ltd are, as we speak, taking sledgehammers to their suddenly-no-longer-apposite range of commemorative Ashes Warnergnomes - a splendid array of squat, red-faced figures wearing green caps that included an Apoplectic Warner, an Angry Warner, a Petulant Warner, a Sarcastic Warner, and a Righteously Indignant Warner.
And what about the Australian dressing room? The revelation that wee Davey is dropping out of Vitriol College before completing his Masters in Advanced Verbal Unpleasantness leaves the Australian team approximately 1/11th less obnoxious and means that his fellow professionals will have to pick up the sweary slack.
has reassured us
that this will all be in the best possible taste, and that "the line" will be respected at all times. You might be sceptical, but you should remember that, as with other mythical entities like tooth fairies, elves and the spirit of cricket, only certain people can see the line, and Michael is one of them:
"We respect there's a line you can't cross. Both teams might head-butt that line, but I'm confident we won't overstep the mark."
Threatening to head-butt the line seems a somewhat aggressive way of promising to behave yourself, like pledging to burn the arson laws or to wipe out the UN Genocide convention, but the important part of that quote is the last bit. His players won't overstep the mark, indeed it is impossible for them to overstep, because the thing about the line is that no matter how far you go, the line is always just that little bit further. So it's all good.
Still, not absolutely everybody is looking forward to watching overgrown tattooed children shout playground obscenities at each other over and over and over again, hour after hour, day after day, for the whole of July and a bit of August.
So the ICC has come up with a solution. The 2015 Ashes series will be the first to employ the Scrabble Review Sledging System. It works like this. Each umpire keeps about his person a big velvet bag full of Scrabble tiles. When a bowler feels a tantrum coming on because the batsman has just hit his best bouncer for six and it's, like, totally unfair and everything, he can signal that he wants to use one of his sledges by waving a hairy fist. He will then be allowed to delve into the umpire's bag, pull out 12 tiles and construct a pithy sledge from his assortment of vowels and consonants.
This not only brings sledging under control, it also encourages the players to exercise their cranial equipment in pursuit of something other than top Twitter bantz or deciding whether to order the spicy chicken wings instead of the extra hot chicken wings. And the spectacle of Shane Watson giving us his best confused brontosaurus impersonation while trying to come up with an obscenity that includes the letter Q will surely only enhance our enjoyment of this biennial sport-and-swearing festival.