Sledging is part and parcel of the game of cricket. More than just a few words, it is a tactic that teams utilise to catch the opposition off guard. The mental aspect of cricket is as important as anything else.
Words exchanged during a game affects the player's ability to think clearly. Sledging is meant to either disturb the line and length of the bowler, or bring about concentration lapses in the batsman. In some cases, however, sledging goes too far, and the spirit in which the game is being played starts coming under scrutiny.
Ever since Sourav Ganguly took over as captain, India have shown that they aren't a team of 'nice guys' anymore. The Kolkata batsman's aggressive nature and outspoken character inspired the up and coming generation of Indian cricketers to be more vocal. The Australians have always been regarded the masters in the department of sledging, although to their credit, they are masters in everything they need to be.
The nature of India-Australia contests has always been fiery, with a mouthful of words oftene being exchanged by both sides. Let us look at the five biggest sledging incidents between the two teams in recent times in the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
5. David Warner mocks Varun Aaron
David Warner is one of the most vocal players in the Australian dressing room. He has had verbal spats on a lot of occasions, and his altercation with Zaheer Khan in the IPL is well-known. The incident with Rohit Sharma, where he said he could 'lip-read' Rohit Sharma speaking Hindi in the Carlton-Mid ODI series, is another infamous incident.
This incident takes us back to the Adelaide Test in 2014. This time it wasn't a high-profile player who Warner got into trouble with- it was just a youngster, Varun Aaron. The Kangaroos were leading by 193 with Warner leading the charge at 66*.
Warner tried to heave a ball over the infield on the leg-side off Aaron's bowling, missing it altogether, and lost his stumps. The opener had to walk back, but once the TV umpire checked the no-ball, it was evident that the bowler had overstepped by a huge margin.
Warner came back to the pitch and began to play mind games with Aaron. Leaving one of Aaron's balls outside the off-stump, he could be heard saying the words "Come on!" to mock the youngster.
The seniors in the team had their youngster's back though. Shikhar Dhawan got involved, and words and hand gestures were going both ways. We could only guess what was said between the two, but the bottom line remains - Warner hit twin centuries at Adelaide as Australia won the Test. Of course, he had Varun Aaron's no-ball to help him along the way.
4. "Stay in your limits" - Virat's ultimatum to Steve Smith
The 2nd innings in the Adelaide Test was quite eventful. Warner's little go at Varun Aaron had already unsettled the players, and now he was joined at the crease by the chirpy character of Steve Smith.
Indian captain Virat Kohli needed to find a way of breaking this stand, and he introduced Rohit Sharma into the attack. Steve Smith came down the track to counter one of Rohit Sharma's balls. The bowler appealed for an LBW- just a polite question to the umpire, but an astonishing one. Steve Smith stared in amazement, unquestionably puzzled by the appeal, as Rohit Sharma questioned the batsman's outrage.
"What? What?" the Indian frontline batsman shouted at Smith as he just smirked back.
Now, Virat Kohli was prompted to leave his position at the slip, and he came dangerously close to Smith as they exchanged words. Of all people, it was David Warner who ran down the track to separate the two batting behemoths. Virat's final sentence was caught crystal clear on the stump mic - "Stay in your limits!"
3. Gautam Gambhir frustrates the Kangaroos
As Gautam Gambhir went down the track at Feroz Shah Kotla to defend Brett Lee's delivery, Australia put a little spice into it by threatening to throw the ball at the stumps. When Shane Watson came into the attack, he repeated the same, only this time it was accompanied by verbal jabs.
Gambhir pulled Watson to the square boundary in the next over. When he defended the next ball, Watson leapt up to catch the ball and needlessly gestured a throw at Gambhir, again with visible lip movements. Things reached a breaking point in the 51st over. Gambhir was batting at 65* and pushed a ball by Watson towards mid-wicket.
While running the first run, Watson put his hand up as if he was blocking the route, and dropped it just before Gambhir got to him. When Gambhir returned for the 2nd run, he made no efforts to keep his elbow away from Watson and caught him on his chest.
Everyone was now having a go at Gambhir. Mitchell Johnson had a few words, but more noticeably, Simon Katich was having a real go at the hometown boy. Gambhir profusely answered all that was said with a huge dance down the track, and whacked the ball over the boundary to get to a century.
On an occasion when VVS Laxman called for a single, Simon Katich blatantly stood in front of Gambhir, not allowing him to run. Laxman had to go back after coming nearly 4 yards down the track. Gambhir had had enough. He hadn't said anything all day long, but now he got into a real war of words with Katich.
For elbowing Watson, Gambhir was banned for the next Test. For the verbal arguments, only Shane Watson was penalised among the Australians (10% of his match fee). Gambhir did go on to score 206 in the first innings, and interestingly, he was bowled by Shane Watson. Who won this battle? You be the judge.
2. Virat Kohli blows a kiss to Mitchell Johnson
Virat Kohli has been a very frustrating figure for the Australians for a long time. Ever since he smashed his maiden Test century against them, he had made his mind up to fight the Australians at their own game. Coming into the MCG Test in 2014, Kohli had already scarred the Australians with his twin centuries at Adelaide, but India had lost the Test.
The animosity between Kohli and the Australians carried on throughout the tour, and at Melbourne, it was Mitchell Johnson who got involved. When Kohli defended a ball back to the Australian pacer, he picked it up and threw it at the stumps, but it hit the retreating batsman on the full. Kohli went down and got up without a fuss, and Johnson walked up to him and apologised with a hand gesture.
On the last ball of that over, Kohli edged a ball for a boundary and exchanged some words with Johnson, seemingly unhappy that the ball was thrown at him. Virat was also dropped twice off Johnson's bowling, leaving the pacer cursing his stars.
After Kohli completed his century, he pulled Johnson for three consecutive boundaries, all off the back-foot and between square and mid-wicket. They continued their little battle into the final session even when India were 7 down. Kohli smashed Johnson through the covers and showed his biceps to Johnson, who had more words to say. The current Indian captain then lifted him over mid-off for another boundary.
This time Kohli, walked down the pitch and blew a kiss at Johnson, who could do nothing but smile and say a few more words. Ultimately, it was Johnson who dismissed Kohli, but it has to be said, he had been second best all day long.
1. Rishabh Pant and Tim Paine's banter in the Boxing Day Test
In the Boxing Day Test, Tim Paine and Rishabh Pant exchanged some fair banter with each other. It was fun to witness, and totally different from the heated battles and verbal arguments we've listed in this article. The sledging did not start in the Boxing Day Test- it had been present throughout the first and second games.
In the first innings of the 3rd Test, Tim Paine cheekily took a dig at Virat Kohli. He was caught on the stump mic telling Murali Vijay - "I know he's your captain but you can't seriously like him as a bloke."
When Rishabh Pant came out to bat, Paine was aware that the youngster had been snubbed for MS Dhoni in the ODI team. Thus, he felt the urge to convey what he wanted to in a funny way. He engaged his forward short-leg fielder Aaron Finch in the conversation.
Tell you what big MS is back in the one day squad. Should get this bloke down to Hurricanes.. They need a batter. Fancy that extend you Aussie holiday, beautiful town Hobart too... get him a water front apartment. Have him over for dinner.
He then turned to Rishabh Pant as the commentary panel burst into laughter.
"Do you babysit? I can take my wife to the movies while you watch the kids."
Pant took this in a very sporting manner, with no abusive or derogatory reply on offer whatsoever. When Tim Paine came out to bat, Pant had his fair share of fun with Mayank Agarwal at silly point.
We have got a special guest her, eh Mankey. Have you heard the word temporary captain... ever. Eh Monk?
He then proceeded to tell this to Ravindra Jadeja:
You [Jadeja] don't need anything to get him out boy. Come on lad. He loves to talk, that's the only thing he can do. Only talking talking.
This was an exchange everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Far from heated and badmouthed exchanges, with players being sanctioned and banned, Pant and Paine showed exactly how sledging can be done while still staying within the spirits of the game.