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When Michael met Jimmy

James Anderson, giving it to the bloke who threatened to break his f-ing arm – when we knew sledging was on its deathbed. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Rookie
26th November, 2013
2

Aside from the incomparable Don Bradman, there are two cricketers I wish I had the privilege to witness in their pomp: Sir Garfield Sobers and Malcolm Marshall.

Sobers is regarded as possibly the second-greatest batsman after Bradman, and the best all-round cricketer the game has seen.

Marshall was the kingpin of a West Indian attack that dominated for decades. Sadly, earlier this month marked the 14th anniversary of Marshall’s death.

His ferocity, as well as his pace for a relatively short man, and his dangerous bouncer, were the hallmarks of a glittering 81-Test career spanning almost 13 years.

During his illustrious career, one of the many batsmen he tormented was Australian icon David Boon.

After playing and missing a number of times, Marshall remarked, “Now David, are you going to get out or am I going to have to come round the wicket and kill you?”

A comment that, while made in jest, nevertheless strikes fear into the heart of any batsman, even one as courageous as David Boon.

If ICC match referee Jeff Crowe had caught wind of Marshall’s death threat, police may have been involved!

The situation with Michael Clarke’s sledge, warning James Anderson to prepare for a “broken arm” is nothing short of farcical, and the fact the ICC has decided to fine the Aussie skipper makes it doubly so.

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Firstly, it aims to only pick up half of the conversation, which was a heated discussion between the two players, who admittedly have had a frosty relationship in the past.

For Clarke to hit back with a retort like that only makes one wonder what Anderson had said, and the fact we have to make assumptions inflames the farcical nature.

If, as reported (by Shane Warne) Anderson had threatened to punch George Bailey in the face, then retribution should be sought for Anderson also.

Channel Nine have a lot to answer for here. There was absolutely no need to broadcast what was said, and in doing so it has made a mountain out of a molehill.

For me, the words that were said are not the story. Much worse has been said on the cricket field and, quite frankly, it’s been around for so long that the chorus of people who say it sets a bad example for children should really rethink that logic.

It’s been going on since Tudor times. It has not been a gentleman’s game for over a century.

And yet those who adore the game and its players alike still seem to grow up ok.

If anything, those crying foul of Clarke’s intimidatory sledge should really recognise what had happened after the last wicket fell: Anderson, Clarke and Bailey all shook hands. They left the comments on the pitch, where they should stay.

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While the comment may have been ill-directed, it was not meant to be dissected by the media and the wider public, and quite frankly to assume Clarke had just sledged Anderson for no reason is purely naive – Anderson is an experienced cricketer with one of the biggest reputations for sledging in the world.

The mind games on and off the field have gone far enough, with David Warner singling out Jonathan Trott as weak, and inevitably that assumes the backdrop for Trott heading home due to a stress-related illness.

Despite overwhelming efforts from Andy Flower to the contrary, many people will now see Warner’s comments as the catalyst, or the cause of Trott’s illness and subsequent departure.

While it is unclear how long Trott has been harbouring this illness, it puts into perspective the volcanic nature of international sport.

I wish Trott all the best in his recovery.

These episodes have detracted from what has been an enthralling and see-sawing encounter in Brisbane, but again Clarke has attracted the ire of many an Australian.

What more can this man do for his country? It astounds me he still doesn’t command the respect he deserves, and it is an indictment on Australia as a cricket nation.

Despite a degenerative back condition, which would keep most men bed-ridden, Clarke manages to not only perform on the world stage, but excel to the point of claiming the hotly contested title of number one batsman in the world.

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We as a cricket public demand he shows us more mongrel, and when he does just that by intimidating a tail-ender who has been a relentless taunter of Australia for half a decade, to our apparent dismay, there are even calls for him to stand down.

It is about time Australia stands up with Clarke and gives him the support he deserves.

He is the talisman of our batting line-up, and if he doesn’t receive the support from his teammates, what chance does he have when half a nation is against him also?

When he retires, which may be sooner rather than later, he could have a record that will stand up alongside Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting, if not already.

And it is sad that even then, he may not garner the respect he so richly deserves.

It is the fickle nature of Australia as a sporting nation, we turn on our own so quickly. It never used to be like this.

But with some success beckoning here, and in England (with the Rugby League World Cup), not to mention an improved Wallabies effort in Europe and a commanding Australian World Cup golf win, it’s about time the tide turned.

But our sentiments for our sports stars have to turn with it.

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