Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aussies can give sledging; but can’t take it

OK Aussies, so we’re hurting. You’ve humiliated us royally in this test series. And we accept – we’ve looked like rookies in front of your vastly superior team. And the fact that we’re still the number 2 ranked team in the world makes it hurt even more. So let’s not discuss the cricket today. Can we please discuss why you sledge so much and why you can’t take sledging from others?! Because you look like really poor losers on this field at least!

Sledging is one of the contributions that the Aussies have made to the world of cricket. Wikipedia describes sledging as “the practice whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating the opposing player. The purpose is to weaken the opponent’s concentration, thereby causing him to make mistakes and underperform. The insults may be direct or feature in conversations among fielders designed to be overheard.” Steve Waugh justified sledging as “mental disintegration”. Great! This is what we would expect to get as a contribution from ex-convicts of England who were “penally transported” off to the other end of the world by the English to save their own world. Ouch, that hurt did it?! Enjoy it then!

The Aussies are very poor losers. When Harbhajan sledged against Andrew Symonds, it was branded as a racial slur. Why? Harbhajan must have called him “Maa ki”. Let’s be clear about that. Because Bhajji is hardly the kind of guy who would use the English word Monkey rather than the Hindi Bandar! But assume for a moment that Bhajji had infact called Symonds Monkey, why couldn’t he handle this slight provocation? What’s so racial about this verbal attack? Or is Symonds particularly sensitive about this word since in his own mind, he does find some sort of a resemblance?! Or the only explanation could be that some others have also accused him of a similar appearance and behavior; so he’s become sensitive to it?! Take that Aussies!

Sledging does often cross the line and gets into a personal abuse space. When that happens, then a strong opponent gives it back really bad. The most common reverse abuses relate to the physical peculiarities of the sledger or about his wife! The net lists some great cases of sledging. Here’s one: Aussie paceman Glenn McGrath was bowling to Zimbabwe number 11 Eddo Brandes – who was just missing each ball. McGrath, frustrated, went to him and inquired: “Why are you so fat?”Quick as a flash, Brandes replied, “Because every time I make love to your wife, she gives me a biscuit.” And one more: Mark Waugh standing at second slip, Adam Parore played & missed the first ball. Mark – “Ohh, I remember you from a couple years ago in Australia. You were shit then, you’re ••••••• useless now”. Parore- (Turning around) “Yeah, that’s me & when I was there you were going out with that old, ugly slut & now I hear you’ve married her. You dumb ••••”. And one more: Rodney Marsh to Ian Botham in an Ashes match: “So how’s your wife and my kids?” Ian Botham’s reply – “The wife’s fine. The kids are retarded!” In all cases, the Aussies have got it back and bad!

But what happens when the opponent doesn’t speak English very well. That’s when the Bhajji Maa ki happens! And when that happens, the Aussies show exactly how poorly they can handle abuse themselves. Aussies rely on their physical superiority as well to intimidate the opponents, one earning them the sobriquet “ugly Australians” in the seventies.

The British don’t usually sledge at all, but if they do, then they don’t do it the way the Australians do. But they do have innocuous (and damned funny) banter on the field. Wikipedia lists the particularly funny WG Grace, who apparently never liked to leave the field when he was out. On one occasion, having been clearly bowled, he replaced the bail and stated “The wind’s strong today umpire”. The umpire responded “Yes, mind your hat on the way to the pavilion”! Or when he was out but refused to leave “They came to watch me bat, not you bowl!”. But then one day, he got it right back from Charles Kortright in a county game. Kortright was repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to get Grace dismissed by an umpire who refused to give him out. Kortright finally knocked off two of his stumps. As Grace reluctantly began to return to the pavilion, Kortright farewelled him with “Surely you’re not going doctor? There’s still one stump standing”!

So we’ve lost badly. Like I wrote earlier, it’s not the batsmen’s fault. They simply cannot play short pitched bouncers. And the intimidation they face from the Aussie bowlers on friendly home conditions makes them nervous. Not surprising then that the wall Dravid has been bowled out 9 out of the last 11 times. It’s nervousness that comes from poor preparation. The other reason for India’s poor performance clearly has to be the sledging the Aussies indulge in. They’ve always done it and they’ve done it in this tour as well.

It’s one thing to tolerate the sledging. It’s entirely another thing to talk about it in half-appreciative tones. That’s what the commentators were doing on Star Cricket. Ravi Shastri is one of those blessed with good English. Sledging was OK for Shastri because he was able to give it back. Sample this one: Shastri hits the ball towards Mike Whitney (the 12th man in the game) and looked for a single. Whitney said, “If you leave the crease i’ll break your f***ing head”. Without battling an eyelid, Shastri retorted, “If you could bat as well as you can talk you wouldn’t be the f***ing 12th man”! But honestly, Shastri shouldn’t be appearing like one who believes this is just a “way of playing cricket” in Australia. It’s a despicable habit and it musts be condemned.

The Aussies deserve this win. But let them be gracious in it. And most importantly, let them be gracious when they lose. That’s a lesson they didn’t learn before their ancestors were forced out of England! (Ouch again!)

The real truth is that sledging is totally unacceptable and it’s completely unsportsmanlike to indulge in it. They used to call cricket a “gentleman’s game” and that’s the way to play it. There is fierce competition, but at the end of the day, it’s a game. Aggression on the field is great; aggression in the form of sledging is not…..


  1. Very rightly said. I just love your reads.