Sledging is stupid. And weak

Matt Cleary Columnist

By Matt Cleary, Matt Cleary is a Roar Expert

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    Australia’s cricketers and apparently England’s cricketers – and when Australia plays India, South Africa, New Zealand, all of them, their cricketers, too – appear cool for their on-field ‘banter’ and sledging and yapping to one another to remain out there on the field.

    The old edict of whatever happens there stays there is in play unless, of course, someone wants something heard on the stump microphone which would put ‘pressure’ on one’s opponent in the form of a public grilling by the unpopular press.

    It’s sort of like using the media as an avenue to mentally disintegrate one’s opponent, as the outing of Jonny Bairstow’s funny little headbutt thingy in the pub was. It is a thing. It’s understood.

    Is it bad? I dunno. I played fourth grade for Woden Valley, bowled first change, batted 11. I got the fielding award for fielding fine-leg and third man.

    So there was that.

    But sledging? No expert. I didn’t like it that much. I didn’t like the sort of nastiness of it. Because most of it was weak. All the fielders out there, being ‘tough’, ganging up on one batter without the consequence of anything physical really happening in return.

    In that way, footy was more honest. If you said something mean to a big fat pig in the front row – even from way out on the wing – you could expect almost immediate retribution in the form of two sets of six-inch studs raking down your back.

    I was once rucked by a prop forward in my own team. Wayne Hickey didn’t care who you were, if you were bottom the ruck between him and ball – or even just lying there, looking pretty – you were getting a shoe-ing. And the plump white meat of my inner thigh still quivers at the thought.

    But in cricket? Please. Being sledged by some dickhead on the field didn’t affect me at all.

    It was all sort of cartoonish, amateur, dumb.

    And as I said, it wasn’t like they were actually going to hurt you. It was piss-ant.

    England bowler James Anderson and Australian batsman Michael Clarke share words. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    But then it was only fourth grade, and the sledgers, even the grizzled old boys, weren’t that expert at it. Queanbeyan boys were the worst/best for it. They had blokes would call you rabbit this, ferret that while you were waiting padded up.

    It was funny, if anything. Dropkicks acting tough, thinking they’re Ian Chappell.

    Test cricket isn’t far removed. Mitchell Starc probably can break your freakin’ arm, of course. But, really, being yapped at by someone from third slip… how could it affect how you bat?

    Few years ago I asked Mitchell Starc about the ‘aggressive’ nature of Australia’s cricket and talked about him flinging the ball at Ben Stokes and a Kiwi tail-ender whose name you could Google if you were of a mind, and I mused to Mitchell that it must be hard to remain ‘aggressive’ while thinking of the children, and so on.

    And Mitchell Starc said: “It’s always something that’s in your mind. At the same time, we’re trying to win games for Australia. That’s first and foremost for us. Obviously we’re always in the limelight and have to be conscious of what people might think.

    “But we are just trying to win the game for our country. We’re always going to play aggressive cricket. That’s how we play our best cricket.

    “But it’s important we don’t overstep that line. We have in the past and I’m sure we will in the future. And we’ll hear about it.”

    Mitchell Starc

    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    And then I said: “But where is this ‘line’? What is it? You’d only know when you’ve over-stepped when someone tells you that you have, no?”

    And Mitchell Starc said: “Yeah, a lot of the time the officials decide where the line is.

    There’s been times in the past when a bit of friendly banter’s been perceived as something different. Other times things have been let go.

    “But as the Australian team we have to know how the public view things and how we view things ourselves, too.”

    And, as there often is in our summer of cricket, there’s something of a hullabaloo about the whole sledging thing and the captains are yapping away at each other on the field, and it’s a thing, again.

    Matt Prior alluded to something offensive or personal or something someone said to an England player or players, and hasn’t said what it was or who said it and did it from the other side of the planet.

    But it had the effect of riling up said unpopular press types, a bit like yapping into the stump microphone.

    Steve Smith responded by saying of the current malarkey that the Aussies – and it would appear England, New Zealand, and so on – will just do their thing and play their cricket and yap at one another, being ‘tough’, until the match referee deems they’ve over-stepped that ephemeral grey line.

    Steve Smith talks to Mitch Starc

    (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

    “I think the umpires and match referees are there to determine that,” said Smith when asked if “hand on heart” he was comfortable with what his players had said to England’s players in Brisbane.

    Joe Root, meanwhile, said: “It’s Ashes cricket.”

    And there could be no argument.

    Added Root: “I don’t think it ever went too far, I think both sides are desperate to win and desperate to do their country proud. And that was just expressed, I think, out on the field.”

    A few other things, too. Stupid ones. And weak.

    Matt Cleary
    Matt Cleary

    Matt Cleary is a sports writer from Sydney. He enjoys golf, footy and Four Pines Pale Ale, and spends as much time as conscience allows at Long Reef GC. Tweet him @journomatcleary, or read him at his website.

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    The Crowd Says (65)

    • December 8th 2017 @ 8:42am
      R2k said | December 8th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Sledging is bad and I completely disagree with it.

      • December 8th 2017 @ 10:15am
        R2k said | December 8th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        I swear there were more baseketball movie references here originally

    • Roar Guru

      December 8th 2017 @ 8:46am
      Jason Hosken said | December 8th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      I bet the lads form Belconnen were just as sharp?

    • December 8th 2017 @ 8:54am
      Con said | December 8th 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      Sledging is being really overstated by the media. It happens in every sport at every level, and if channelled the right way is nothing more than harmless banter that is more funny than offensive.

      • Roar Guru

        December 8th 2017 @ 10:43am
        JamesH said | December 8th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        I know, right?

        The line “But, really, being yapped at by someone from third slip… how could it affect how you bat?” kind of sums up this article. If you’ve only ever batted in the tail like the author and you aren’t expected to actually score runs for your side then it probably doesn’t affect how you bat. A bunny is a bunny, regardless of the level, and I’m not trying to be nasty when I say that.

        On the flipside, anyone who has played as a batsman (again, regardless of the level) will know that sledging is a distraction. Some people are good at ignoring it, others seem to get better when sledged, but plenty of batsmen do perform worse when sledged. No one would bother doing it if it never distracted the batsman.

        I don’t like the really aggressive stuff (e.g. just telling someone you’re going f’ing kill them, or that they’re f’ing sh*t) and I honestly don’t think it works that well. The sledger just looks like a goose. I also hate sendoffs because it’s cheap. But the stuff you could call banter – like what went on between Smith and Anderson at the non-striker’s end, or bringing up Bairstow’s ridiculous headbutt greeting – is fine. It adds a bit of theatre and some of it can be quite funny.

        I mean, think of some of the all-time classic sledges – ‘dropped the world cup’ (even if that’s a misquote), ‘your mum gives me a biscuit…’, ‘at least I’m the best cricketer in my family’. The game would be poorer without that sort of stuff.

        • December 8th 2017 @ 5:51pm
          Alan said | December 8th 2017 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

          Right up there was:

          Marsh to Botham: How’s the wife and my kids?
          Botham to Marsh: Wife’s fine, kids are ret@rded…

          Lesson? Pick your target well. 🙂

      • December 8th 2017 @ 11:47am
        rock86 said | December 8th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        Isn’t it what.

        You’d think that all the cricketers are going out there and threatening to kill their opponent.

        What people also fail to grasp is that some of the most effective ‘sledging’ are those little innocuous comments said in isolation where a batsmen makes a mistake or is looking a little troubled, it can put that little bit more doubt in the players mind about what the ball is doing, is there is anything in the pitch etc.

    • December 8th 2017 @ 8:56am
      Liam said | December 8th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      Your article is confused; you don’t really make a case for sledging being stupid and weak, other really than to say it doesn’t work on you.

      Sledging doesn’t have to be thoughtless, or nasty, or rude; sledging can be entertaining, funny, well thought through. Sledging is more than an opportunity to get one over an opponent; it’s an opportunity to remind your teammates that there is only two of them, and eleven of you, to drag them along with you, and a light moment if you can make them laugh.

      Standup comedy has its critics, too; some people think it’s dumb and stupid, but most of the time they make a better case than you have here.

      • December 8th 2017 @ 9:54am
        jameswm said | December 8th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Sledging can be clever or funny, but in that case it isn’t really sledging, just entertainment.

        But in reality sledging is useless unless it puts someone off their game. Like saying “why did you bother bringing a bat out” when someone lets another one go or pads up. Or saying something to make a batsman lash out. Or telling them they can’t handle the short stuff when a yorker is coming.

        • December 8th 2017 @ 10:16am
          Liam said | December 8th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          It really doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

          One day, I was playing against a person called Max Power, and all I did was tell him he had a terrific name; he was really taken aback, thrown off by it. When he took guard, he was still smiling, chucking a bit at the banter that went around the field; he was smiling a bit less when he went out caught behind next ball.

          It comes down to this; sledging is not merely for your opposition, it is something that your own side can feed off. It can raise your spirits, just as it can make cricket much more entertaining. You can be antagonistic and sledge, but unless they’re vulnerable to it it won’t work, so why waste the time. Make someone laugh, and they’re no longer thinking about batting anymore.

        • December 8th 2017 @ 12:17pm
          Liam said | December 8th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

          And I REALLY don’t see where the line between sledging and banter lies, or even if there is one.

          Good banter is light hearted, but it can also be a distraction from the game at hand; a good sledge is funny, apt and pointed, the difference between a heckle and its reply. Both can be off hand, formulaic, or just something to do when you’re sick of fielding; both can be pointed, calculated, and designed to put the batsman off.

          Both can be lazy, or crass, or not funny. As far as I’m concerned, there is not such thing as banter on the cricket pitch; all is sledging, and it makes the pitch the better place for everyone.

          • December 8th 2017 @ 12:40pm
            ozinsa said | December 8th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

            My 20 year experience of mostly receiving sledges tells me this: whilst the game is on i.e. I’m not out, sledging is largely fun and totally acceptable. When the game is over i.e. I’m out, then send offs are pathetic. I’ve had few of them so I will defend cricket’s core culture against a sport like basketball where rubbing it into an opponent seems compulsory.

            • December 8th 2017 @ 2:24pm
              Liam said | December 8th 2017 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

              Sledging isn’t giving a send off. Send offs are belittling, the sign of a small mind and a weak individual.

              You’ve beaten them already. What’s the point of rubbing it it, other than to be a bully?

    • December 8th 2017 @ 9:07am
      Concussed said | December 8th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Crap article, thanks champ.

      • Roar Guru

        December 8th 2017 @ 12:44pm
        The Bush said | December 8th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

        Classic call, Championship

    • December 8th 2017 @ 9:16am
      paul said | December 8th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      I don’t know that sledging is stupid or weak, though most of the comments you hear on the field obviously come from people from the shallow end of the gene pool.

      My question is whether sledging is tantamount to cheating and/or illegal? If the aim is to destroy concentration, confidence or self-esteem, why isn’t this included in the rules of cricket, for example? If sledging is okay, why can’t players on the sidelines sledge players on the field and get away with it? Oh, that’s right, it ‘s all about, “what happens on the field, stays on the field”, which is tantamount to saying sledging is wrong.

      If a spectator yelled out some of the things that have been said to me during my less than illustrious cricket career, at the least they’d have been arrested and fined, yet it’s okay to sledge, according to a long list of players?

      I just can’t see the logic

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