Even as the Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon emphasised upon the need to play some ‘ugly cricket’ against South Africa during the upcoming home Test series, injured South Africa batsman AB de Villiers has recalled the last Test series played between the two nations as the one wherein he had to cope up with the worst form of sledging in his career.
Australia and South Africa squared off for a three-match Test series in February-March 2014, that ended with the Australians defeating the hosts 2-1 to win the No.1 Test Ranking from the Proteas.
Apart from the enthralling contest between the bat and the ball, some other key features of that series were the wars fought through the words on the pitch, the most noticeable one of which was the feud between the then Australia captain Michael Clarke and the South Africa speedster Dale Steyn.
So intense was the exchange of verbals between the two that the incumbent Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, was tempted to hail the Australians as a ‘pack of wild dogs.’
The Aussies, however, were not to be bogged down by such an allegation. On the contrary, some of them were heard barking on the field after the aforementioned batsman’s dismissal.
Recalling the 2014 series, de Villiers mentioned to Fox Sports, “That was definitely the most abuse we've got on the cricket field.”
“When we play England, it's pretty verbal. I also remember touring Australia in 2006 as a youngster, with the likes of Warne and McGrath and Gilly behind the stumps. Still, that was nowhere near what we received in 2014.
“Australia certainly made a conscious effort to be verbally over the top.”
The 32-year-old also labelled some of the sledges hurled out by the opposition as ‘personal’ and remarked that the men from down under regretted some of their deeds.
“Maybe they felt they could get under us if they really came out and got personal with some of us. I felt it was unnecessary.
“Some of the Australian players came up and apologised and felt that it was a little bit over the top … certainly, at times they did go over the top and I think they regret that in some way.”
Clarke’s personal feud with Steyn
The Australians might have treated the sledging as a passing shower, but one member of the South African cricket team had taken things too personally. Dale Steyn was unhappy with the treatment meted out to him by the then Australian captain. In November 2014, when South Africa were to tour Australia for an ODI series, matters were yet to be resolved between the two.
Clarke, who had issued a public apology in the media by admitting that he had crossed the line during the Cape Town Test, may have thought that to be the end of it. However, Steyn certainly didn't think so.
“I haven't really spoken to him much since then, to be honest," the South African had said in September 2014.
“I don't take many things personally, but what he did say to me I did take personally. I know he apologised in the media and I should be playing this down.
“But the day he comes and shakes my hand and says, 'I really mean what I said' and behaves like the way he should, maybe then I will (forgive him). But for right now, he's not here so I'll wait until I get to Australia.”
Steyn had had the final laugh, as far as on-field competition between the two was concerned, as the South African dismissed the Aussie batsman during an ODI in Perth that turned out to be the last competitive international fixture that the two played against each other.
De Villiers would be racing against time to get fit for the final Test of the three-match series, the first of which begins in Perth on November 3. The remaining two will be played in Hobart (November 12) and Adelaide – which is scheduled to be a day-night Test – from November 24.