Last year, I read a news article where Australian captain Steve smith was at a press conference just after his squad arrived in India prior to the test series. The headline of this article, as well as the article itself, stated that smith basically admitted that his side was going to sledge their way through the tough Indian series that was coming up.
Straight off the bat (no pun intended) every team sledges. Just to clarify, it’s a part of the game, and it’s sole purpose is to use verbal remarks to inevitably mess up a player’s mental concentration. This is done by usually the fielding side, to get the batsman out quicker. This mostly happens to batsmen at the crease, but bowlers do also get sledged by the batsmen. Sometimes, as you can expect when grown men with an overwhelming amounts of testosterone and high emotions in a match, the sledges become slightly… overbearing. The ICC, technically, does not have much of an issue with sledging, provided that there’s no swearing or defamation to one’s character (and that it is not picked up over the stump microphones). However, is that not what sledging is in a way?
As previously mentioned of the test series between the Aussies and Indians, this series was one with a massive amount of drama. This being from pitches being deemed dangerous and not suitable for play due to how much grass, or lack thereof, there was on it, to Steve Smith’s dressing room review ‘brain fade’. Many teams do not usually have much success in India when it comes to the turning tops of the wickets and the heat, so in Smith stating to the press that they were going to focus more on their sledging gave me the impression that the team were not confident in winning the series as confidently as they always claim to be on other tours. Why rely on an idea (of actively sledging) where it can get you into more trouble than you would like? Is it because you know you will get away with it, reason being that it is in the spirit of the game and it is all passion?
Now we focus to more recent times. Before this series even began, there was a cloud of drama looming in the air, with the visitors requesting that the stump microphones be turned down or off. The question here is why? What is there to hide? What did the Aussies plan to say during the matches that the mics needed to be turned down? What has come out today is a spat between David Warner and Quinton de Kock that went down the personal route between them both that was caught on CCTV footage which was leaked. The situational irony here is that Australia had put on a show for the stump mics to be turned down so that they could sledge in piece, but cameras still caught them.
But where is the line drawn? There seems to be a line that is created between teams where there is space to poke and poke at another player to the point of slightly uncomfortable reactions. If certain players are only going to be known being a bully on the field where you get personal all the time, you do not deserve any respect. I think of this line and how certain teams use this line to their advantage like this: the line of sledging tactics. It’s a line so thin, it’s almost transparent. When a player from India, Australia, or England steps over this line of sledging, directing it towards another player, they will be expected to step closer and closer in retaliation. The minute the target stands so much as on the line, the instigator will jump off this line so quickly and cry wolf. This so-called line between sledging and getting personal, on or off the field does not exist. And this incident between de Kock and Warner shows it. I spoke in a previous article by which I had questioned how genuine the Aussies were in creating videos of the South African team where they speak on the respecting the opposition, but immediately go and speak so ill of their family?
I’ll conclude by saying that while sledging does add that factor of interest towards a series, players should be able to back up all the trash talk with actual skill. Saying that you will focus on sledging more than trying to combat the issue of not being able to play spin is a rubbish statement. I’m not sure what the punishment will be for Warner and de Kick, but both are guilty of taking things too far in statements. I do hope no suspension will take place, but a hefty fine may just make their way to them. But who knows? Maybe the ICC will let Warner get off scot-free. No-one knows, but one thing’s for sure is that this series and story will have many glued to their phones and televisions for the rest of the series.
Remaining fixtures in this series:
- South Africa vs. Australia 2nd Test: Friday 9-13 March 2018 St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
- South Africa vs. Australia 3rd Test: Thursday 22-26 March 2018 PPC Newlands, Cape Town
- South Africa vs. Australia 4th Test: Friday 30 March-3 April 2018 Bidvest Wanderers, Johannesburg