Sunday, November 24, 2013

Time to Yellow Card the abusive sledgers - enough is enough

The idea of "Mental disintegration", a fancy term presumably meant to give sledging in cricket a thin veneer of respectability, originated with Steve Waugh. Waugh of course did not originate verbal abuse in the game - it probably goes back as far as the game itself. But Waugh's Aussie team used it as a deliberate part of their tactics - mostly by fielders to unsettle batsmen. If we needed more evidence of the fatuousness of the "Spirit if Cricket", the nonsensical notion beloved of men of a certain age and class especially in the higher echelons of the Marylebone Cricket Club, then the ubiquity of sledging in the professional game would be it. Deliberate, calculated, foul-mouthed abuse of batsmen by fielders is cheating - pure and simple. I'm not talking about the occasional funny or even mildly rude remark. Nobody wants the cricket pitch even in a Test match to be solemn and silent. I'm referring to the sort of vulgar, constant sledging that England's batsman were subjected to at Brisbane. That is cheating pure and simple.

If the Laws of Cricket included a specific reference to verbal abuse on the pitch instead of their paean to the phoney "Spirit of Cricket" it would be far more useful. It's not difficult. You place the responsibility with the Umpires. If in their judgment a fielder offends then give the Umpires the right to show that fielder a Yellow card (off for an hour) or a red card (off for a full session). Obviously you would need to give the Umpires some guidelines - but you leave it to their judgment. Why not? It happens in other sports to counter unfair play.

Cricket is a great game but it is sullied by vulgar fools who think it is smart to abuse their opponents. It isn't  - it has no part in the game. Of course cricket is played in the mind and unsettling a batsman with short-pitched bowling or the placing of fielders near to the bat (etc,) within the Laws is and always has been part of it. But abuse is mindless, demeaning and damaging to the sport's reputation. Enough is enough.


The news of Jonathan Trott's illness and his return home is further food for thought. The Steve Waugh type of calculated sledging will work best on those players who are already mentally fragile. It's water off a ducks back to the toughies (like Steve himself) but more effective with those who are mentally vulnerable. Marcus Trescothick, who should know, has described the Australians as "... experts in the theory and practice of doing your head in". I am not saying that Clarke and his team targeted Jonathan Trott specifically in this way or that they knew that his problems were more than a bit of nerves. But I wonder whether they would see Trott's personal mental disintegration and return home as a bit of a "result". Lets hope not.


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