Sledging isn’t racist or homophobic. It will always be an integral part of sport.
Anyone who has played sport has copped a sledge or two or more.
My first taste was my first-grade debut for Mosman against Northern Districts at Mosman Oval.
I was so nervous the wicket seemed in the next suburb as I walked out to face former Test opening batsman Jimmy Burke and his offies.
Jim Mathers was the keeper, the father of Wallaby-to-be Mick Mathers.
Mathers started the chirp as I took guard, saying “You won’t be ’round for long, son”.
And he kept saying it as Jim Burke ran into bowl – I played forward and was beaten all ends up.
Burke walked all the way down the wicket, put his hand on my shoulder and said. “Boy, you are going to be a great player”, with Mathers still chirping I won’t be around for long.
Second ball exactly the same sequence. Third ball I crashed into the covers where Lynn Marks fielded brilliantly stopping a certain four. Damn.
Burke again walked down the wicket, and with his face about six inches away, bellowed “Who the f—–g hell do you think you are?”.
Ball four and I was on my way for an inglorious duck on debut.
Jim Mathers said “I told you so”, while Jim Burke met me at square leg saying “You are going to be a great player son, now f–k off”, pointing to the shed.
Ian Craig was the Mosman skipper and he was leaning on the dressing room door with “Cop a bit out there Lordy?”.
It was an eye-opener, it had never happened to me before. Craig said get used to it – I told Ian then and there I wouldn’t start a sledge, but I’ll sure finish a few.
And that’s exactly what I did, walking towards the sledger with a big smile. Saying nothing, very quickly sledgers backed off when there was no retaliation.
I only ever started one sledge in a one-off father and son batting together in first grade for Petersham – Noel Hughes and son Graeme.
Noel always scored runs against us, and that day was no different, he was in the 40s.
He was a very good batsman, but he ran his son Graeme out on debut without facing a ball.
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Graeme was filthy, and I couldn’t help walking past Noel and suggesting it would be pretty interesting over the WeetBix in the morning.
Noel exploded and was out next ball – the only time I sledged.
Adelaide Oval in the early 70s and Australian captain Ian Chappell had been blasted in the press for sledging. How unusual.
Leg-spin legend Bill O’Reilly of Sydney Morning Herald fame was in the press box saying sledging was disgraceful, it never happened in his day.
Alan McGilvray, Keith Miller, Lindsay Hassett, and Norman May were also in the press box as I said – “Ace it up Bill, you didn’t earn the nicknames of Tiger and Snarler because you were a choir boy”.
McGilvray, Miller, Hassett, and May did a hasty retreat; they could tell Bill was about to burst a valve.
His retort: “You whippersnapper, what the hell would you know?”
Bill burst a valve alright, and continued to chip me right through the day.
But when he arrived the next day Bill was his usual self, as though nothing had happened.
Merv Hughes was a constant sledger, singling out Graham Gooch who was having trouble laying bat on ball.
“How about I bowl you a piano to see if you can play that?’
South African Daryll Cullinan was Shane Warne’s bunny.
Warne greeted him with: “I’ve been waiting for two years to get you again.”
Cullinan replied with – “Looks like you spent it eating”.
And Mark Waugh greeted batsman James Ormond to the crease with “You aren’t good enough to play for England”.
Ormond replied – “Maybe so, but at least I’m the best player in my family”.
Long may sledging be alive and well.