Sledging, chirping, mental disintegration, trash talk. Call it what you will, but it’s as part of Cricket as sipping tea halfway through a match. If you believe folklore, and by folklore, Wikipedia, the art of sledging may have originated from various sources. Firstly, Ian Chappell claims to have overheard a cricketer swear in front of a woman and reacted like a ‘sledgehammer’, so therefore all insults and obscenities thrown at the opposition was referred to as a ‘sledge’. Likewise, a former New South Welshman suggested that an opposition players’ wife was having an affair with a teammate, and hence, started singing ‘When a man loves a woman’, a Percy Sledge tune. Or maybe it was introduced by the English during that first test match way back in 1877 when Charles Bannerman retired hurt on 165 (the language used was far too colourful to be repeated in such a family friendly article).
Whichever way you look at the benign beginnings of such a topical tactic, sledging has been used in all forms of Cricket to both unsettle an opposition or to help motivate oneself by chirping at someone else. However, there has always been an unwritten line that players have known not to cross. But despite this unwritten code that we have all abided by, in this political correctness gone wrong society of today, it is getting more and more difficult to understand where that line lies.
The whole saga between Jimmy Anderson and Michael Clarke may be the tip of the iceberg that just happened to have been picked up by the Channel 9 microphones. Remember, this isn’t the first time that Channel 9 has gotten an Australian champion in trouble because of their effects mic. Supposedly, Joe the camera man (aka Shane Warne) found out how good technology was, which goes to show that what is said on the field (or production room) doesn’t unfortunately stay there.
There has been plenty of press about how negative and aggressive Clarke was in his comments, with plenty of people claiming that it was unsportsman like, however, if this is the worst thing that’s said on the playing field, then I’ll print off this article and eat my own words. There are even rumours that the two coaches are going to sit down in a peace treaty scenario to determine the line. Further adding to the scuttlebutt, Hillary Clinton is flying out to mediate the session between Andy Flower and Darren Lehmann.
This media bashing of such a trivial scene has resulted in further fuel to the ashes fire. It’s great as a spectator to see the build-up to the second test, where everyone is expecting a dull batting draw and a flat Adelaide wicket. But perhaps this is channel 9’s way of further increasing their ratings (insert any number of conspiracy theories). It doesn’t matter what grade of Cricket, or even what grade of sport you play, there will be a level of sledging to overcome. However, when you add the history between these two nations, the recent hidings that Australia has taken and then the intensity that Mitch Johnson bought to the first test, then emotions were bound to be spilled over the top. What Michael Clarke said, was in fact aggressive, but the majority of sports fans would love the posturing, the wording and the fact that the captain was backing one of his players. Clarke has come under a huge amount of scrutiny about the way he is leading his team, but this act suggests that the fire is still there and he backs them 100%.
Sledging is definitely an art form. Yes, it can be as blatant as what Clarke uttered to Jimmy Anderson (and the world), however, it can take the subtle appearance of the bowler describing the colour, shape and texture of the ball to the batsman who has played and missed for a number of overs. A chirp might make mention of the batsman’s current form, or the fact he’s wearing a horrible looking helmet that makes him look like Ja Ja Binks from Star Wars. The most endearing sledge however is the humour sledge. Merv Hughes, the man with the permanent Movember Mo, used this tactic to great advantage over his career, but the pinnacle was when he was getting hit to all parts of the ground by Viv Richards, so Merv turned around and farted in his direction telling Viv to “try and hit that to the boundary”!
Hollywood has also used chirping as part of their scripting for years. We’ve had Lance Armstrong tell Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball that you can’t quit and that Lance didn’t quit during the Tour De France (what Lance didn’t quit still hasn’t been amended in the movie). What about the pasting Gordon Bombay puts up with from his Icelandic counterpart during Mighty Ducks? Finally, Happy Gilmore certainly crippled as a result of the chirping from Shooter’s mate Donald. The end result? Vince Vaughn won the dodgeball tournament. Bombay and team USA win the Goodwill games and Happy Gilmore gets the cheque, the girl and a place for Grandma (sorry for the spoilers).
Let’s all take a deep breath. In the context of sport and the passion that people play with, what Clarke said to Anderson was aggressive and no doubt said to put him off his game, but as long as once they were off the field they shared a beer and a chat, then nothing more should have been said about it. There are obviously certain topics that are off limits, but by saying that Clarke over stepped the line, suggests that sledges around the world, in every sport (yes, even darts), need to pull their socks up, get creative, and start farting in the direction of their opponents.