Sledging has made headlines again, just in time for the start of the Australian cricket season.
South Africa’s AB de Villiers has come out and claimed that the previous Test series between the two nations had contained the worst sledging he’d ever experienced.
Steve Waugh, on the other hand, is concerned that Australia has been too quiet in recent times, and Mitchell Johnson agrees, with his claim that Dave Warner’s recent vow of silence has weakened the side.
And then, of course, there were the painful allegations about what Doug Bollinger might have said the day Phillip Hughes died.
With the Australian side wrestling with whether sledging still belongs in their team ethos, I’d like to offer them a different path. A more humorous path. Let’s get rid of all of the tedious, nasty sledging that consist merely of strings of profanity and replace them instead with wittier, funnier sledges.
Now, I’m aware that the Australian cricket team are not trained comedy performers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn.
We can start slowly. For example, when Dean Elgar comes out to open for South Africa in the First Test, perhaps Steve Smith can zing him with the following knock knock joke.
“De new opening batsman will be here to replace you next Test.”
“Orange you glad I didn’t say Peter Siddle is coming on to bowl?”
I mean, they’re not great jokes. But they will at least get the players on the path to comedy sledging. And once they’ve worked their way through basic primary school levels of humour (e.g. “Why’s 6 afraid of 7?” “Because 7 8 9… are scoring more runs than him, putting his spot under pressure unless he can also contribute with the ball.”) the Australians can move to more sophisticated comedy.
After all, there are a lot of classic comedy bits out there, all of which can be easily adapted to the cricket field.
For example, should Faf du Plessis find himself in a position where he needs to repeat his batting heroics of Adelaide 2012, batting throughout the final day to secure a draw, then perhaps the most effective strategy to dismiss him would be some kind of sustained re-enactment of Monty Python’s legendary Dead Parrot Sketch, but reworked to ridicule Faf’s dead bat.
“His bat’s not dead, it’s stunned.” “Stunned?” “Yeah, Starc stunned it just when it was waking up.”
“Well, of course he’s nailed to the crease. If he hadn’t nailed that bat down, he’d be down the crease to Lyon. And VOOM!” “Mate, this bat wouldn’t VOOM if you put four million runs through it.”
“This bat has expired and gone to meet its maker. Bereft of runs, it rests in peace. This is an ex-bat.”
And so on. History shows us that there is nothing more annoying than Monty Python fans reciting their favourite bits. And I see no reason why the Australian team couldn’t be just as annoying, singing “I’m a Quint de Kock and I’m Okay” or advising AB de Villiers’ teammates that the elbow injury keeping him out of the tour is ‘just a flesh wound’.
And why stop at Monty Python?
Abbott and Costello were not just hilarious former Australian Prime Ministers and Treasurers, they were also legendary comedians, most famous for their ‘Who’s on First?’ routine. I see no reason why Peter Nevill and Adam Voges couldn’t develop a similar ‘Who’s at First Slip?’ bit.
Then there are the classic comedy movies to mine. For example, when captain Faf du Plessis brings Tabraiz Shamsi on to bowl, why not have the batsman on strike say to Faf, ‘Shamsi, you can’t be serious’ and see if they can get him to respond with an ‘I am serious, and don’t call me Shamsi.’
Or go full Anchorman and advise just-dismissed batsmen that studies show that ‘60 per cent of the time, that shot works every time’.
You get the idea. Eventually, the players will be sufficiently confident in the art of humorous sledging that we can take the final step and move entirely to fully original comedy bits.
Obviously, we can’t expect the players to come up with their own material. They’re elite athletes (and Nathan Lyon), not trained comedy writers. But surely Cricket Australia can afford to hire at least one comedy writer to have in the dressing room, scribbling away at new comedy sledges in order to run them out to the team during drinks breaks.
And, look, I’m perfectly willing to put my hand up for the role. Boof? Give me a call. But for goodness sake, don’t take this article as my comedy writing application. Dig around my archives, man. I’m sure there’s something half-funny in there. Somewhere.