Sledging, chirping, mental disintegration, trash talk. Call it what you will, but it’s as much a part of cricket as sipping tea halfway through a match.
If you believe folklore – and by folklore, I mean Wikipedia – the art of sledging may have originated from various sources.
Ian Chappell claims to have overheard a cricketer swear in front of a woman, and reacted like a ‘sledgehammer’, so therefore all insults and obscenities thrown at the opposition was referred to as a ‘sledge’.
Likewise, a former New South Welshman suggested that an opposition players’ wife was having an affair with a teammate, and hence, started singing ‘When a man loves a woman’, a Percy Sledge tune.
Or maybe it was introduced by the English during that first Test match way back in 1877 when Charles Bannerman retired hurt on 165 (the language used was far too colourful to be repeated in such a family friendly article).
Whichever way you look at the benign beginnings of such a topical tactic, sledging has been used in all forms of cricket to both unsettle an opposition player or to help motivate oneself by chirping at someone else.
However, there has always been an unwritten line that players have known not to cross. Despite this unwritten code that we have all abided by, it is getting more and more difficult to understand where that line lies.
The whole saga between the Australians and South Africa may be the tip of the iceberg that just happened to have been picked up by the on-field microphones.
Remember, this isn’t the first time that the television microphones have gotten a player in trouble. Supposedly, Joe the camera man (aka Shane Warne) found out how good technology was, which goes to show that what is said on the field (or production room) doesn’t unfortunately stay there.
There has been plenty of press about how negative and aggressive Smith and his chargers were in their comments during the recent series against South Africa, with plenty of people claiming that it was unsportsmanlike, however, if this is the lowest point of sledging that’s been said on the playing field, then I’ll print off this article and eat my own words. There are even suggestions that sledging be removed from the game entirely.
This media spotlight will add further fuel to the upcoming summer series. It doesn’t matter what grade of cricket, or even what grade of sport you play, there will be a level of sledging to overcome.
However, when you add the history between these two nations, the recent hidings that Australia has taken and then the intensity that the media will no doubt bring prior to the series, then emotions are bound to be spilled over the top.
The way the Australian cricket team play is certainly aggressive, but the majority of sports fans would love the posturing, the wording and the fact that the captain is backing his players – it’s just a shame the performance isn’t matching the bravado.
Smith has come under a huge amount of scrutiny about the way he is leading his team, similar to when Michael Clarke and Jimmy Anderson had some verbal stoushes during the last Ashes series at home, but this act suggests that the fire is still there and he backs them 100 per cent.
Sledging is definitely an art form. Yes, it can be blatant and obvious to all, however, it can take the subtle appearance of the bowler describing the colour, shape and texture of the ball to the batsman who has played and missed for a number of overs.
A chirp might make mention of the batsman’s current form, or the fact he’s wearing a horrible looking helmet that makes him look like Ja Ja Binks from Star Wars.
The most endearing sledge however is the humour sledge. Merv Hughes, the man with the permanent Movember Mo, used this tactic to great advantage over his career, but the pinnacle was when he was getting hit to all parts of the ground by Viv Richards, so Merv turned around and farted in his direction telling Viv to “try and hit that to the boundary!”
Hollywood has also used chirping as part of their scripting for years. We’ve had Lance Armstrong tell Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball that you can’t quit and that Lance didn’t quit during the Tour de France (what Lance didn’t quit still hasn’t been amended in the movie). What about the pasting Gordon Bombay puts up with from his Icelandic counterpart during Mighty Ducks? Finally, Happy Gilmore was certainly crippled as a result of the chirping from Shooter’s mate Donald. The end result? Vince Vaughn won the dodgeball tournament. Bombay and team USA win the Goodwill games, and Happy Gilmore gets the cheque, the girl and a place for Grandma (sorry for the spoilers).
Let’s all take a deep breath. In the context of sport and the passion that people play with, the tactics used by the Australian team are aggressive and they need to ensure it stays within the parameters of sportsmanship. However, they aren’t the only team doing it.
Yes, it will influence what the young kids will want to follow, but they are also likely to follow those who they witness on a Saturday afternoon playing community cricket. So it’s not just the Australian captain and his men who need to monitor their body language and words, but all cricketers.
Sledging is an art form in all sports. It is certainly here to stay and players of all levels need to remember that there are obviously certain topics that are off-limits, but if it’s in the context of the game and well within the parameters, it can be a successful method of throwing an opponent off their game.
If the calls for banning sledging are successful then perhaps all players around the world need to pull their socks up, get creative, and start farting in the direction of their opponents.