On the eve of the second Ashes Test, it seems as though England are desperate to take the attention away from their shocking performance at Brisbane by having a little whinge about a few words the Aussies said to them.
Sledging (or ‘mental disintegration’ as Steve Waugh championed it) is a part of cricket and has many forms. This includes direct insults on a player’s ability, e.g Aussie pace bowler Merv Hughes informing Robin Smith that if ‘you turn the bat over you’ll find the instructions,’ or their body shape, e.g Australian wicket-keeper Ian Healy telling the portly Sri Lankan Arjuna Ranatunga that ‘you don’t get a runner for being an overweight, fat c***.’ However, sledging can also subtle comments that aim to put members of the opposition off their game. The best example of this comes from Freddie Flintoff when he goaded West Indian tail-ender Tino Best, telling him to ‘mind the windows’ that he would find if he hit straight down the ground. Sure enough, Best charged down the wicket and was promptly stumped, leaving the great all-rounder giggling like a little boy.
Some of the best lines that come from cricketers are actually retorts to less funny insults. My personal favourite sledge of all-time has to be Eddo Brandes’ response to Glenn McGrath’s ‘Why are you so fat?’ The Zimbabwean’s reply was ‘Because every time I make love to your wife she gives me a biscuit.’ Although absolutely nothing to do with cricket, it is one of many examples of hilarious retorts made by cricketers.
Some of the things I heard coming from both camps in the first Test, both during and after the game, were neither. They were threatening and aggressive remarks, with Michael Clarke’s ‘we’re going to break you’re f***ing arm mate’ being arguably the worst. It’s acceptable in cricket to criticise someone’s technique or their body shape, but threatening to hurt them is crossing a line. Again, it is very subjective as to where this line is and brings up the question of whether remarks like this are within the much-criticised ‘spirit of the game.’ For some, sledging shouldn’t be a part of the game at all but others are all for it, no matter what is said. Personally, I have no problem with sledging being part of the game but I do think it has to be kept within a certain limit. What Clarke said, I feel, went over the boundary of what is acceptable, but then it is dependent on opinion.
Many people, however, feel that David Warner’s comments about Jonathon Trott were far worse. After the game, the Aussie batsman commented about the England star’s game, saying he was ‘poor and weak.’ A few days later it was announced that Trott was to leave the tour due to a stress-related illness. Many former players, so-called experts and fans have since condemned Warner for what he said, with the player himself admitting he had gone too far. But did he really know how Trott felt? Cricket isn’t how it used to be; opposing teams don’t socialise with each other any more after games and most don’t play any form of cricket together so don’t really know many, if any, players from other teams. I don’t think Warner could have known for sure whether Trott was struggling mentally or not, even if he could see it in his eyes.
For me then, I feel that Clarke’s remarks were far worse than Warner’s. I also feel, however, that the English press have made far too big a deal out of this as a whole. It’s almost as though they are trying to find any way out of having to admit just how bad the English team were. Although certain individuals can be satisfied with their efforts, as a collective England were shocking, especially with the bat. However, if this was to be the main focus of attention then the whole country would be panicking that England have no chance of retaining the Ashes. There is a no win situation – the media make a fuss out of anything and everything. As a result, I guess it’s best that they decided to exaggerate the sledging rather than the poor performance – the fans still have hope going into tonight’s game and the rest of the series rather than thinking England are going to be whitewashed.
I am going to end this blog with some of my favourite sledges that haven’t already been mentioned:
– Rod Marsh: ‘ How’s your wife and my kids?’ Ian Botham replied ‘The wife is fine but the kids are retarded.’
– Legendary Yorkshire and England fast bowler Fred Trueman once said to an Aussie batsman walking onto the playing field via a gate “Don’t bother shutting it, son, you won’t be there long enough.”
– In a county match in England, Greg Thomas was bowling to Viv Richards and getting a few to whizz past the bat. After Richards played and missed another one, Thomas said: “It’s red, it’s round. Now f***ing hit it!”. This obviously angered Richards who proceeded to hit the next ball out of the ground. Richards: “You know what it looks like now go and get it.”
– Trueman again, this time to one of his own team-mates, Raman Subba Row. A batsman edged a ball from Trueman to Row at slip but, rather than catch it, he let the ball through his legs to the boundary. Row said ‘Sorry Fred, I should’ve kept my legs closed,’ to which Trueman replied ‘So should your mother.’