Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why did nobody tell Jimmy Anderson that you can be competitive without indulging in extreme, foul-mouthed verbal abuse?

There is a good article on Cricinfo today on Jimmy Anderson by Sidharth Monga. In it Mr Monga quotes Burnley Cricket Club Chairman Michael Brown:

"Brown thinks it is also a bit of a northern thing to be so competitive on the field and normal off it."

In my view it is not "competitive" verbally to abuse your opponents, it is cheating. Nor is it "Northern". Mr Brown seems to like regional stereotypes but the idea that Anderson's unacceptable on-field behaviour is a function of his Burnley roots is pretty offensive. But that's by the by. What we should be condemning in the strongest of terms is the obsessive and demeaning sledging that Anderson delivers. Let's be clear. This is not a bit of banter on the pitch. This is not a bit of humorous "chirping". This is foul-mouthed, threatening abuse. 

That James Anderson decided to incorporate verbal abuse into his game is regrettable. That nobody stopped him doing this much more so. Presumably coaches - Fletcher, Moores, Flower knew what was going on. Presumably Captains - Vaughan, Strauss, Cook could hear it from close to. Presumably Umpires could as well. And yet none of them had the courage and the decency to stop it. 

The "Spirit of Cricket" is, in the view of this long-standing cricket fan, a load of hokum. But the fact is that it is written into the Laws of the game. Anderson has clearly transgressed against this spirit by a country mile. He is a folk hero, a rich man and a role model. He is a wonderfully talented, hard-working, determined, aggressive cricketer. England's best. But he has a fault in his character that makes him cheat on the pitch. Monga says:

"There is unconfirmed talk that one of the ECB's behaviour tests might have revealed that Anderson the bowler is at his best when he is grumpy and fired up. Alastair Cook has more or less said as much, without alluding to the test."

Verbal abuse is not an automatic consequence of being "grumpy and fired up". You can be competitive without breaking the rules. I want England to win, and I want James Anderson to continue to be successful. But not at any price. I want Jimmy to be remembered and honoured for the right things. Not for being a foul-mouthed cheat.

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