I was having a conversation, rather a debate with a friend of mine on, is cricket really a gentleman’s game? Being a cricket fanatic, I was in favour
of it. I gave my reasons to prove it and also proved his reasons wrong. However, he came up with a point of ‘sledging’ to which I had no reply. Welcome to the ugly side of cricket, ‘sledging’.
What is Sledging? Many cricket experts have come with their own theory but what Steve Waugh says is that it is “mental disintegration”. Sledging is an attempt to intimidate a batsman and distract him. However, it is still a debate whether it is good humour banter or just another contribution to poor sportsman spirit. Cricket fans have a misconception and confuse themselves between sledging and personal abuse. Personal abuse is not sledging and neither has it made a part of sledging. Maybe, it follows a sledge. We have examples where sledges have got personal like the Sarwan-McGrath incident in 2003 and Harbhajan Singh-Symonds incident in 2008.
People who follow the game of cricket very closely will know that in 1974-75, the Aussies were labelled as “Ugly Australians” for their abusive language and hostile fast bowling. However, there was one batsman who had an answer to the sledging that went on and that batsman was Sir Vivian Richards. Whenever a bowler came in to say something to him, he used to keep quiet and made his bat do the talking. Another cricketer, a bowler, Merv Hughes, used to sledge in his own style. His witty humorous comments to the batsman and his intimidating bowling action brought a scare in the minds of the batsman. One incident which I recollect and will be in the minds of many fans is that of Merv Hughes and Javed Miandad. Merv Hughes said to Javed that he is too fat to play cricket and should be a bus conductor. After 4-5 overs, Hughes took the wicket of Javed Miandad and when he was on his way back to the pavilion, Hughes said, tickets please!
In my opinion, Sledging is a technique, a systematic way to cause a lapse in concentration of a batsman. It sometimes looks ugly with cricketers using personal comments which give rise to a fight, a war between the two teams. It does take a dig at the gentlemanly image of the game too. We have many examples where sledging has been the reason for unwanted scenes on a cricket field. For example, Shane Warne and Marlon Samuels in the KFC T20 Big Bash and Pollard and Starc in this year’s IPL.
Rarely does sledging causes a greater impact on the game. I think it’s momentary and just for the moment, its impact stays on. Sledging can’t win a team matches, catches win matches, right? However, in a pressure game, it may a play a greater role. In T20’s, there is already pressure and with added pressure, it may prove to be a match winner. I remember one incident between Yuvraj and Flintoff in the T20 World Cup 2007. Flintoff had a few words with Yuvraj which the latter did not like and everyone knows what followed next. It proved to be a match winner. Those 6 sixes of 6 balls was the turning point of the match. There are less examples to prove where sledging has won a match for the team. It plays a role, a part of mind games which teams love to play.
Forming an opinion on whether sledging should be allowed or not, is tough. However, if teams go by the meaning of sledging, a friendly comment, not harming anyone’s sentiments, only for the purpose of causing a lapse in the concentration of a batsman should be allowed. It is one of the bowlers and the fielder’s weapon which should find a spot in cricket. Sometimes the bowler’s weapon might turn against him but those are mind games and cricket is also a mind game. On the other side, personal abuses should not form a part of it and players should see to it that they don’t harm anyone’s sentiments.
IMG source: espncricinfo