In a comment on the previous post, Homer from My Two Cents
inquired about Aussie cricketing culture. I'm not such an expert; I only played two years in a C-division team in a City Suburbs competition (Northern Sydney Suburbs). But still, some conclusions can be arrived at. Part of what Homer was curious about, I think, is how sledging is perceived in that culture. Well, I wrote something on this a while ago, and just to be lazy, I'm going to post it here without further comment. It had to do with what I perceived as a certain double-standard - amongst Aussies - when it came to sledging, and indeed, that its objectionable forms were not taken too well even by Aussies (that indeed, was the reason why I wrote what I did below). Having said that, I'll still stand by what I wrote in my previous post that sledging isn't all there is to Aussie cricketing culture. Disclaimer: I wrote this post in slightly irate mood, and I think I have a more nuanced take on it now (I think).
So here goes:Three myths about sledging
A persistent Aussie sporting myth is "what happens on the field stays on the field". Another is "sledging is just a bit of chat". Yet another is "Aussies only dish out sledging because they are fully prepared to handle it". It would help if these were acknowledged.
First things first. Players are human beings and the cricket pitch is just a piece of ground set a certain distance from fences, roads, shops i.e. the rest of the world. There is nothing holy or sacrosanct about a cricket pitch or the rest of the ground such that the emotional impact of words said out there is lessened. If you call someone a f___ing c___t, it will have the same impact as if you said it at the train station. The awareness of potential penalties prevents players from getting into a brawl but that is about it and just because one does not take place it does not mean that the people involved have not been affected. I played Northern Suburbs C-grade cricket for two years in Sydney and there was a clear demarcation in the kinds of relationships we had with opposing teams. Those that sledged a lot were a bunch of c___t's and we would not dream of having a drink after the game with them. So whatever happened to the Aussie ideal of "shake hands, go have a beer?" When you sledge, people remember, and they bear grudges. The mythical healing quality of the handshake after the game is much overrated.
Secondly, sledging is not just a bit of a chat. Very little of what gets said on cricket fields is friendly banter in the way that sledging's apologists imagine. How can it be banter, when most of it consists of snide comments made to your teammates about the opponent? Plenty of the comments are insulting, abusive and downright derogatory. And plenty are simply out of place on a cricket field.
The third is going to be the hardest one for Aussies to handle. But to echo Viv Richards and Ranatunga (whose comments have been reprinted in the Herald yesterday) it is true. The easiest way to rattle the Aussies is to turn up the sledging heat. Read the interview with India's Ramesh last year when he talks about the sledging directed at the Aussies in the epic 2001 series and how it affected them. All the Indian close-in fielders got into the act and the Aussies were visibly rattled. One of the reasons Aussies disliked Ganguly so intensely - an emotion that was dutifully
echoed by sports correspondents covering the tour - was that Ganguly's behavior during the series was simply an extended sledge. His send-off of Steve Waugh in an ODI was much photographed and discussed. If the Aussies were such a hardened bunch, they wouldn't care. But they do - and I suspect the reason they hand out the sledging in such rich measure is that they are fully aware of the effect that it would have if directed against themselves. Waugh's complaints about Ganguly not turning up on time for the toss were particularly precious, coming as they were from a man who tolerates his bowlers abusing opponents.
If Australians want to sledge, then they should do it. But please, don't go around, indulging in newspeak, and calling it "mental disintegration". Steve Waugh's worst contribution to cricket is this silly euphemism that he has invented and his defense of it over the years. One of the reasons the West Indies' reputation was tainted in their years of dominance was their overuse of the bouncer. Similarly I suspect that the Australian's legacy will be tainted by their willingness to abuse their opponents, to spin their doing so, and worse of all, to show little or no ability to be able to handle the same medicine dished out to them. When you consider that Australian cricketing ability diminishes when subjected to sledging the case is even more damning.