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What is Sledging?

Posted by wildkiwi25 on January 9, 2009

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Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe the practice whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating their opponents. The purpose is to try to weaken the opponent’s concentration, thereby causing him to make mistakes or underperform. It can be effective because the batsman stands within hearing range of the bowler and certain fielders; and vice-versa.

There is debate in the cricketing world as to whether this constitutes poor sportsmanship or good-humoured banter. Sledging is often mistaken for abuse, and whilst comments aimed as sledges do sometimes cross the line into personal abuse, this is not usually the case. Sledging is usually simply an often humourous, sometimes insulting attempt at distraction. Former Australian captain Steve Waugh referred to the practice as ‘mental disintegration’.

Origin:
According to Ian Chappell, the use of “sledging” as a term originated at Adelaide Oval in either the 1963-1964 or 1964-1965 Sheffield Shield competition. Chappell claims that a cricketer who swore in the presence of a woman was said to have reacted to an incident “like a sledgehammer”. As a result, the direction of insults or obscenities at opponents became known as “sledging”. Despite the relatively recent coining of the term, the practice is as old as cricket itself, with historical accounts of witty banter between players being quite common.

WG Grace:
Former English batsman William Gilbert Grace who was one of England’s best batsmen of the 19th century, was notorious for his humourous quips. On one occasion having been clean bowled, he stated: “Twas the wind which took thy bail orf [sic], good sir.” The umpire replied: “Indeed, doctor, and let us hope thy wind helps the good doctor on thy journey back to the pavilion.”

On another occasion he was out leg before wicket but refused to leave, claiming: “They came to watch me bat, not you bowl”. However perhaps the best instance of sledging involving Grace was by bowler Charles Kortright. Repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to dismiss Grace by the umpire who refused to give him out, Kotright finally knocked two of Grace’s stumps out of the ground. As Grace reluctantly began to return to the pavillion, Kotright farewelled him with: “Surely you’re not going, doctor? There’s still one stump standing.

Viv Richards:

The great West Indian batsman Viv Richards was notorious for punishing bowlers that dared to sledge him. So much so, that many opposing captains banned their players from the practice. However in an English county game, one bowler attempted to sledge him after he had played and missed at four balls in a row. He told Richards: “the ball is round and red and weighs about six ounces, why don’t you try and hit it?” The next delivery was hammered by Richards straight to the fence for four. He quickly replied: “You know what it looks like, now go and f—ing find it.”

Merv Hughes:
Sledging is common at most levels of the game in Australia, but one Australian with a particular reputation for sledging was former fast bowler Merv Hughes. His intimidating and aggressive bowling style was often accompanied by a mixture of humourous witticisms, and vitriolic abuse. On occasions he crossed the line from sledging to insulting. However there are numerous occasions of classic sledges delivered by Hughes.

On one such occasion, Hughes was bowling to Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad, who informed the overweight bowler he looked like “a fat bus conductor”. The very next ball, Hughes bowled Miandad, screaming “tickets please!” as he ran to celebrate with team mates.

Harbhajan – Symonds incident:
Sledging came into the media spotlight during the 2007-08 Indian tour of Australia when Harbhajan Singh was accused of alleged racial abuse towards Andrew Symonds. The allegation was not proved and a proposed three-match ban on Harbhajan was lifted. He was instead charged with a Level 2.8 offence (abuse and insult not amounting to racism) to which he pleaded guilty and was fined 50 per cent of his match fees, although the Appeals Commissioner later noted that had he been aware of Harbajan’s prior record, a one-Test ban would have been issued. Symonds admitted that it was he who started the abuse between the two players by using offensive language.

To find out more information about sledging feel free to explore these links below:

  • Lighter examples of sledging – BBC Sport
  • The Age – Warne Sledge
  • Sledging part of Latham’s cricket days – The Melbourne Age
  • The Corridor’s sledging page
  • Australian Cricket Classic Sledging Examples

    *Acknowledgements to Wikipedia.org and owners of pictures and videos used.

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