Unnecessary sledging is a slippery slope

Much has been made of Jimmy Anderson’s verbal confrontations with the Aussies during the first three tests. Stuart Clark, who I admit is not my favourite person, even suggested that Anderson had become Australia’s ‘twelfth man’; his logic was that Jimmy’s sledging irked the Australians and motivated them to play so well at Perth.

Clark was of course talking balderdash – the Aussies were clearly fired up before the series even started – but his sentiments raised an important issue. Does sledging actually give you an advantage?

When I was a little boy, I used to find Merv Hughes intimidating just watching him on TV. His broad frame, caveman snarl, and fearsome novelty moustache made him look like a grouchy Neanderthal with a sore head.

I expected Big Merv to produce a club and whack the batsman over the head every time he conceded a fluky edge down to third man. When he gave someone like Mark Lathwell a verbal roasting, you worried that the England youngster might break down, start crying and retire hurt – emotionally hurt.

These days however, as I’m a grown man measuring six feet tall and weighing fourteen stone, I find the spectacle of smaller (and younger) men throwing abuse at each other rather ridiculous. I can’t help thinking of the three scousers on Harry Enfield and chums – ‘alright alright, calm down, calm down’.

I’ll give you an example. We all love Jimmy Anderson to bits, but does he really think a bloke with his slight frame and boy band looks is going to intimidate anybody? He looks like Louie Spence or Boy George having a tantrum. What you gonna do Jimmy, kidnap the batsman and tie him up if you don’t get your way?

It’s interesting that the only Aussies who seem to react to Anderson’s abuse are Michael Clarke – whose nickname ‘pup’ seems apt because he’s always doing a Scrappy Doo impression – and Mitchell Johnson, who must be the least scary man ever to sport a huge tattoo.

Everyone knows Johnson is mentally frail and insecure. The fact he tries to act tough on the cricket field doesn’t change that.

There is an argument, of course, that sledging violates the so called spirit of cricket – but that’s not what I’m trying to say. Although ‘mental disintegration’ can appear a little unsavoury and makes cricketers look like footballers, it can actually be quite entertaining.

Sledging occasionally even raises the intensity of certain passages of play. The clashes between Alan Donald and Mike Atherton wouldn’t have been the same without a fired up Donald calling the former England captain ‘a cheating upper class ****’ every over.

I guess what I’m saying is that sledging has its place, but it should be brief, to the point, and actually have a point. What do Peter Siddle and Matt Prior gain by squaring up to each other and hurling abuse backwards and forwards?

And does Anderson really have to put his finger to his lips tell Mitchell Johnson to ‘shhhhh’ after he’s dismissed a tailender who can’t bat anyway? Who does he think he is, Thierry Henry?

The excessive verbal sparring we’re beginning to see in this Ashes series should be stamped out before it becomes more prevalent. It doesn’t secure an advantage for either team and it just looks wrong.

When it happens in the NFL, it’s called ‘taunting’ and the offending player’s team is penalised fifteen yards. Would it be such a bad idea to penalise Australia five runs every time Siddle starts chirping like Chucky?

Before the Melbourne test, both teams should be reminded of two things. Firstly, test cricketers are ambassadors of the game and role models – so they shouldn’t behave like drunks arguing over a woman. They should play hard, but behave like mature adults rather than petulant schoolboys.

Secondly, and perhaps most pertinently, they should be reminded that making a lot of noise doesn’t automatically make somebody a good cricketer. A loud cricketer isn’t necessarily a mentally tough one – otherwise Andre Nel would have been the leading wicket taker in test history, rather than the first bloke South Africa dropped after a heavy defeat.

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I prefer my heroes to be silent assassins. A successful player doesn’t need to shout the odds – he can let his batting or bowling do the talking. Ranting and losing one’s cool in the middle is usually a sign of weakness.

When Ricky Ponting was famously run out at Trent Bridge in 2005, he left the field screaming blue murder. Remind me again who looked like the Pratt, was it England’s substitute fielder or the Australian captain?

James Morgan


  • In any sport you try to find that edge, physical or mental. Just some people can do it and others are just plain rubbish. What these guys don’t realise is it matters who you are an who your saying it to. McGrath say Australia are going to win 5-0 and the England batsmen get scared and leave their bats at home. One of our bowlwrs tells punter he’s worse than Boycs’ grandma he’ll have a double ton before lunch.

    Sledging also bring about some of the funniest stories in cricket. Hughes-Smith, McGrath-Brandes, Warne-Cullinan and best of all Richard and some young English bowler whose name is rightly forgotten.

    This ‘art’ form is ruined by silly little boys like Prior and Siddall wanting to fight around the back of the stands.

  • There was an article about this on Cricinfo a few days ago. From the sounds of it they have the right idea (tactically, at least, if not spiritually).

    I think it was Prior talking about it, and he said they know not to sledge someone like Ponting, because he’s heard it all before and it just fires him up (same used to be said of the likes of Waugh, Lara, and so on). He didn’t say it in so many words, but the gist was that it works against the likes of Hughes, Clarke, Johnson, and it probably does.

    Interesting comment from KP, he said that despite all the talk of this being fierce out on the field, it was nothing compared to the old days. Said you went on the field with Warne and McGrath and Hayden, and so on, and it was a hundred times worse than this series, just no one every mentioned it.

  • James – congratulations on making it through an entire piece about sledging without mentioning Eddo Brandes.

  • I hope your tongue was firmly planted in the cheek when you wrote ‘The excessive verbal sparring we’re beginning to see in this Ashes series should be stamped out before it becomes more prevalent’. The Australians never like it when the sledging becomes a two way process – they just prefer it when they give and don’t take it. India, SA and England have all recently stood toe to toe with Australians and have been competitive as a result. I want to see more, not less. I want see punches, spitting, massive sulks and 20 year feuds between players. Hopefully, it will spill over into the commentary box and Nas will finally crack being the butt of another Warney dig and just smack him on air. England can and will win through a scorched earth policy – bring it on!

    • I agree wholeheaqrtedly with Goose. Border upped the ante with his no more mates approach. Now Strauss and co should take it to the next level. The Aussies have been getting away with it scot free for years, now it’s time for Engalnd to fight bac. Prior should wait for Siddle out the back, but as I fear he may in fact get a kicking, he should make sure Bell is skulking round the corner with piece of 4 by 2 as back up.

      • Surely this is perfect material for a future article – England vs Australia, bare knuckle fitting in batting order. England’s openers would struggle as Watson is huge and Hughes looks quite tough despite his size where as Cook and Strauss are far too refined to fight dirty. Apart from Jimmy A, I would not fancy any of the England players. Broad would get very very cross but I am not sure there is much muscle behind the extended reach. If selected, Bresnan would be quite useful.


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