Almanac Cricket: A common sense guide to sledging

On the eve of the Third Test Cameron Bancroft was quizzed on the topic of sledging Vernon Philander in the wake of his recent Twitter exploits and offered the following:

 

“That’s boys being boys, playing cricket. Who can hurt someone’s feelings the most? It seems to be a bit that way.”

 

What a load of crap. Seriously, are our International cricketers representing Australia now in the business of going out to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings? Does it get brought up as a KPI in team meetings? Are those with skill in the area particularly proud of it? Does it carry the same weight internally as making runs and taking wickets?

 

This is childish behaviour. The behaviour of boys (as Cameron said) and not fully grown men representing their Country.

 

Bancroft might be a ripping chap, yet there is something in his statement that inherently sums up an ugly side of Australian Cricket that I can’t resonate with. As an ‘apprentice’ in the team, perhaps he is just following the party line?

 

Before you get into me about being soft, I am not advocating for a ban on sledging (as if that could happen anyway), rather I’m just trying to draw a line between what is and isn’t acceptable.

 

I get the point of sledging. You are trying to get someone’s focus off the game. If they are distracted with the chat, then they won’t have their head in the game. There are other ways to do this.

 

Over the last decade or so, I’ve become increasingly disconnected with the Australian Cricket team. The behaviour of a few has just simply rubbed me up the wrong way. I haven’t liked what I’ve seen (and heard). I don’t see leadership, on or off the field. I see that every time we are under pressure we resort to the principle of ‘the means justify the ends’ to tolerate behaviour as long as we win.

 

I’m going back a little in time, but for those that can remember in the 2015 World Cup Final Kiwi Grant Elliott had made a sterling 83, yet upon his dismal was given a sustained send off by Brad Haddin. Seriously, the bloke has batted well, he is now out and rather than a simple “well batted mate”, he cops the spray of all sprays on the way out. There is no need or purpose for this. There is no class in this.

 

Incidents like this have stacked up. Each one has dulled my enthusiasm a little bit for those that currently wear the Baggy Green.

 

The role/need for Warner to act as an “attack dog” as first highlighted under Michael Clarke’s leadership, is a case in point. Why the hell do you need someone to perform this role? It is like picking a designated Bully in the team. Someone with the green light to abuse, insult and demean an opponent from 11am to 6pm. Focusing on and rewarding this type of behaviour is an awful message.

 

The type of behaviour that hides behind the “what happens on the field stays on the field” mantra.

 

The topic of sledging has dominated the press following the Warner and de Kock exchanges.

 

I fully understand this is just not Australia behaving poorly. If de Kock went down the line he did as was reported then it is not on. Similarly the Rabada contact with Smith and his repeated batsman send offs are poor. It is unfortunate the kid will not have to learn from his errors, now that the suspension was overturned.

 

Each Country will have players that cross the line. It just hurts more when I see it coming from Australia.

 

For what it is worth here is my five cents worth. As context I haven’t played International cricket, far from it. I don’t know what it is like to perform on the biggest stage under the spotlight.

 

I do know cricket though, with 20 years of suburban turf cricketing experience under my belt, I’ve heard most of it, when it comes to sledging.

 

For the record I was not a sledger. I just saw no need for it. It wasted energy. That being said, generally I did respond when I was on the receiving edge of a sledge. I was never shy of challenging someone who was attempting to unsettle me. I never crossed a personal line though. I’m proud of that.

 

Here is my simple guide to the world of sledging and topics I consider acceptable:

 

Technique

 

If someone is playing and missing, snicking or just generally looking crap out in the middle then by all means call them out on it. Cricket is a game of skill and your expertise to preform it should be open to criticism.

 

I could never pick a wrong-un. I poked around in the dark and was gripped by the fear of making a fool out of myself. My pad was my best friend.

 

One day after about 3 overs of trying to lay bat on ball against a former District firsts leggie, the chirpy keeper followed me after an over and said:

 

“Doddsey, just do everyone here and yourself a favour and hit the stumps with your bat and the pain will be over for all of us.”

 

I couldn’t argue with that.

 

I did tell my new mate that it was pointless charging down the pitch though as he would only miss the stumping anyway.

 

Courage

 

Once you get to a decent level of Cricket, there is an expectation of a certain level of courage under fire. If you are stepping away and shaking hands with the square leg umpire, then I think this is fair game to be called out by the opposition.

 

Selfishness

 

Sometimes you see a Batsman who has burnt a partner for self-preservation or is batting like Boycott when the team needs 8 an over. We play a team game and those that don’t embrace this open themselves up to being called out.

 

Game situations

 

I see no problem in hammering home the old clichés to build the pressure on a batsman to help unsettle them. You know the type. Heaping pressure on the gun player to perform, telling the batsman who ran his partner out that it all sits on him, outlining that 300 runs is beyond their team to chase etc.

 

Banter

 

Only a certain type of individual will give up a Saturday at the beach to spend 7 hours in 40 degree heat, to field the ball 4 times. Banter and a few jokes help pass the time and make you feel better about your 1/81 off 31 overs into the wind.

 

Playing first grade in the Melbourne VTCA I once deceived former Victorian Shield player Paul Broster, with a superbly flighted off spinner (in my own mind) that beat him all ends up, before taking middle. Over sausage-rolls at the tea break he nonchalantly made a bee line over to me and said, “I can’t believe I played over the top of a shithouse half volley from you.”

 

Yes, he was trying to alpha male me, yet it was all fair game and a laugh.

 

There are always individual battles going on in a game.

 

One day In a Wagga First Grade game I was opening the batting against my brother who was playing for the opposition. I headed out with two overs to play after bowling the opposition out. I navigated the first over then Brett, an Offie, and captain, calls for the pill to bowl the second and final over at me. He has seen too much in the backyard and thinks he has my number.

 

Ball one – well flighted. Dodson blocks.

 

Ball two – very well flighted. Dodson blocks.

 

Ball three – insulting lollypop meant to suck in poor batsman. Dodson blocks.

 

At this point I had 10 fielders within earshot telling me how I was the less talented sibling or encouraging me to ‘man-up’ and put big brother into the carpark.

 

Ball four – flighted above the moon. Dodson snaps and tries to hit over mid-off on one knee, Kim Hughes-style. Stumped.

 

To my knowledge I am the only opening batsman in Wagga first grade to be stumped with two balls to face in the day trying to hit a six.

 

Common sense will dictate what is harmless banter and when this crosses into the no-go zone. Seriously this is not that hard. Just don’t bring the following into discussions:

 

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Family
  • Partners
  • Mental health

 

Any broaching of these topics is simply unacceptable. It is not banter, rather crude and deliberate attempts to unsettle and bring about a response from an opponent. To push ones buttons so to speak. You shouldn’t need a code of conduct to educate you on this.

 

Physical appearance is an interesting one. I am not Brad Pitt. Over the joinery I copped a bit in this area. I certainly lost respect for those that went down this line. It was crude and not needed, in my opinion. Nothing would make me more determined than when somebody went at me with this. I’ve played with other mates who never had an issue when sledged in this area though.

 

The same goes with someone’s weight. I’ve seen some guys not bat an eyelid and others get genuinely distressed when sledged on this topic.

 

I’d cross both off the list from my perspective. I agree that others will have different points of view.

 

I was lucky enough to get a good cricketing education from some hardened Country cricketers back in the 1980s and 1990s. I watched and learned. Invariably the best players said little. Actions spoke louder than words. I grew up with the custom of clapping the opposition Captain onto the field (the position carried respect). Yes, you might then bowl him 3 Bouncers in a row following that, however, he knew there was respect between opponents.

 

If you look at yourself in the mirror, you will know when you cross the line. If you are not strong enough to do it, then a good Captain, Senior Player or coach will do it.

 

I really don’t think it is all that hard. A genuine level of respect for your opponent and the game is not hard to define. It is what separates the Men from the Boys.

 

 

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.

Comments

  1. G’day Craig, can you enhance us re sledging in different languages?

    Virat Kohli, i surmise is bi-lingual, both Hindi and English. He certainly says a lot in anger, though i can’t decipher the actual words.

    Ditto Javed Minadad was known to have a lot to say: in Urdu.

    Is it only sledging if it’s in English ?

    Glen!

  2. Glen,
    You will find that Craig’s wise words translate very well into Hindi, Urdu and Afrikaans. into zulu, or xhosa for that matter.
    If it is unaccepatble in English, it is unacceptable in any other language as well.
    You will have observed however, that the boys often do not recognise these truths.

  3. I agree 10000% with everything you’ve said Craig. Cricket was my first sporting love, and the only thing I was moderately good at as a kid. I keep wondering why I have almost completely fallen out of love with the game. Many factors like the length of the game making it hard to consume for the time poor (days are endless for kids); few competitive nations; self interest, money and doctored or lifeless pitches – all play a part.
    But everything you said about the crass alpha male aggro shit that emerges from the mouths and behaviour of Australian players (and other countries I’m sure – but I only care about MY representatives) has been a real turn off for me.
    If I want to watch/read/listen to that shit I’ll tune into Trump – the master not the apprentices.

  4. Great piece, Craig. Like it very much.
    I could certainly sledge with the best of them, but never resorted to personal insults.
    I always tried to keep it as humorous as possible.

  5. Rabid Dog says:

    Hear hear.

  6. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Excellent article Craig. I turned off watching the Australian cricket team some time ago due to their embarrassing unsportsmanlike behaviour. You summed it up well “Childish behaviour, not that of fully grown men representing their country.” And now we have the Australian team complaining about the South African crowd insulting them. OH my God? Did they expect it was going to be a one way street ?
    When I was growing up sledging was equated with bad sportsmanship- end of story. Let the action do the talking .

  7. Great piece Craig. So many excellent points. Just bewildered by the concept of an attack dog in an Australian cricket side. This seems to be a significant departure. Or was it always thus, but not so shamelessly celebrated?

  8. Well, lots of venting re the topic of sledging.

    Ball tampering, a far more serious issue, is now the primary focus. Cheating v bad sportsmanship: the former is the worse of the two.

    Bancroft: sacrificial lamb. Smith’s captaincy: where to from here.

    Watch this space.

    Glen!

  9. craig dodson says:

    Wow…i feel disgusted by the ball tampering news. Lets hope for some strong leadership NOW and appropriate punishments dished out

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