Sledging in Cricket: Drawing a fine line between aggression and argument
On a summer morning in 1988, former English player Chris Cowdrey was all set to lead his side for the first time. With pure whites, he strolled towards the centre of the pitch for the toss. The opponent was the unstoppable West Indian side led by Viv Richards, who strangely received more cheer from the crowd than Cowdrey despite being an opposition skipper.
As suggested by the match referee, Cowdrey started declaring the playing XI. As he started mentioning a few names, Richards interrupted him: “Play whoever you want; that ain't going to change anything.” Probably Richards was the first player to sledge during a toss. The legend turned out to be right as West Indies went on to win that match by 10 wickets.
West Indies was on a winning streak during that time and Richards wanted to show some confidence by his statement. That would have put some pressure on Cowdrey who was leading his side for the first time.
Sledging is inevitable
Sledging is an inevitable portion of cricket - a sport which is often claimed to be a gentleman's game. During a match, players are required to obey the rules and to maintain the decorum. They are representing their country and the fans regard the players as their heroes.
Losing control of emotions by players have often turned off their fans. Remember when Rahul Dravid – a player known for his composed character, threw his cap in the dugout during his IPL team’s defeat against Mumbai Indians.
The incident came as a surprise to many cricket fans. But losing control on emotions is a part and parcel of any game. When a person represents any sport with a passion, he is bound to show some aggression.
Now imagine a player saying, “Get ready for a broken arm mate.” That phrase contained the “F-word” too to make things uglier. Players generally involve in a banter either to show their dominance or to frustrate a well-set opposition. There is a threshold between aggression and squabble. Using abusive language or going in a bit personal will degrade the sport.
So, does that mean players shouldn't get involved in heated moments?
Sledging needs to be limited
In his autobiography, even Sachin Tendulkar has advocated sledging within certain limits. As an Indian cricket fan, we still cherish the moment when Venkatesh Prasad bowled Aamir Sohail in 1996 World Cup after the later initiated an argument.
Similarly, Ashes and sledging go hand in hand. Does it ring a bell when you hear the phrase “Why are you chirping now mate? Not getting wickets?” We all know how James Anderson replied to that phrase from Mitchell Johnson.
In the end, this belligerence between players makes cricket more interesting; of course, by following certain boundaries. Like how South African Test skipper Faf du Plessis mentioned: “If showing aggression is considered a breach of conduct, we could rather have bowling machines bowl to a batsman."