Romanos: Sledging just not cricket any more

JOSEPH ROMANOS
Last updated 12:29 05/12/2013
Fairfax

The history of sport has seen far uglier, and many more creative taunts than what Michael Clarke hurled at the Gabba on the weekend. But is it sportsmanship or just abusive?

Michael Clarke
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CUT IT OUT: Ian Chappell wants sledging, as seen in the first Ashes test, to be cut out of the game.

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OPINION: Ian Chappell didn't invent the term "sledging" in cricket, but he certainly embraced it as a player.

In a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper, he is now warning of the dangers of sledging, suggesting it could lead to players belting each other.

Chappell's warning should be heeded. Cricket officials need to act decisively to get rid of this poison from their game.

Sledging - the verbal abuse of an opponent - gained currency under Chappell's Australian teams in the 1970s, when visiting batsmen were given a going over by Chappell, Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and company.

Since then, the ugly practice has spread around the world.

In most sports, players try to beat each other with skill. But for reasons that elude me, in cricket it has become acceptable to try to put opponents off their game by abusing them.

Imagine Roger Federer or Tiger Woods trying to win by bad- mouthing an opponent in the heat of the action. The tennis and golf worlds would be appalled.

In cricket, it's apparently OK.

There hasn't been a fully- fledged punch-up in big cricket that I can recall - so far.

West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft barged umpire Fred Goodall in Christchurch in 1980. And Lillee and Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad got into a scuffle at Perth in 1981.

But there hasn't been a real haymaker delivered on the pitch. As Chappell says, it's coming.

David Warner was heavily criticised after the first Ashes test when he said: "England are on the back foot and it does look like they've got scared eyes. The way Trotty [Jonathan Trott] got out was pretty poor and pretty weak. Obviously there's a weakness there."

Warner had apparently broken a curious cricket code of ethics by criticising Trott off the park. In cricket, anything that's said on the field is fine, but not off it.

I don't understand that.

To my mind, Warner's relentlessly abusive tirade against the England batsmen on the field and Australian captain Michael Clarke's warning to tailender Jimmy Anderson to get ready to have his f*** arm broken were appalling.

I don't mean to pick on just the Aussies. Nearly all test teams now indulge in unsavoury on-field abuse.

New Zealanders have been as bad as any, and perhaps more of a laughing stock because they so seldom back up their threats with good play.

However, it was former Australian captain Steve Waugh who legitimised sledging by terming it "mental disintegration". Worse, he was praised as a master of the "art".

Why does cricket tolerate the sort of behaviour that on any street corner could lead to arrest?

It's time cricket officials got serious. The umpires should be empowered to step in and take decisive action.

If the language becomes excessive, umpires should have the power to send players from the field for a period - perhaps the rest of an innings or match.

And the umpires have to know they will be supported by match referees and the International Cricket Council.

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If the unpleasant scenes in the first Ashes test in Brisbane weren't enough, officials should heed Chappell's message. No-one played harder than he did.

If he's saying that "enough is enough", it would pay to listen.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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