Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Go the sledge!

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.

7 Comments:

Blogger Homer said...

Thanks Samir - this is most enlightening.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous foriger said...

If you can't see the difference between not turning up to the toss on time, and a few jibes during the game, then despite your time in Aus you still don't understand much about the culture. Its similar to a Sumo refusing to bow to his opponent before a match, totally lacking in class and civility.

Re India's all powerful sledging, it didn't help them much in the WC final now did it?

10:59 AM  
Blogger samir said...

Foriger:

Thanks for the comment (sledge?). Lets agree to disagree about what gestures show a lack of class and civility. Lets just note that there is plenty of disagreement within Australians about whether they thought their team behaved well or not. I heard plenty of my Aussie friends describe Warne as a "total knob" or castigate McGrath for "carrying on like a porkchop". Do you mean to tell me those folks don't understand Aussie cricketing culture either? I had members of my team tell me they disliked playing in the Moore Park comp. because it was full of idiotic sledgers? What about that?

No, India's sledging didn't help them win the World Cup - it did help them win a match in which they followed-on though. And break a run of 16 consecutive test wins by the most powerful test side in the world. If you think a silly one-day competition is more important to Steve Waugh or any Australian captain, than winning a test series in India was in 2001, then you don't understand much about Aussie cricketing culture either.

Cheers.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous foriger said...

They lost the 2004 test series in India aswell, were they outplayed or did Ganguly consider it unworthy of sledging?

South Africa, NZ, Eng have sledged Aus over the years, what of their their poor records against Aus? Link between Aus losing and being sledged = 0.

There are bound to be differences in cultures re sledging across thousands of teams, but sledging has been a part of cricket since the days of W.G Grace.

Turning up to toss late in an international match hasn't been done in the history of cricket pre-Ganguly, it is showing disrespect not only to the opposing captain, but to a nation. I wonder if this is why Indians got off on it? Or why they worship Ganguly?

Get off your high horse hypocrite..

8:16 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Foriger, why the name-calling? You're addressing a very old post of mine (and one where I explicitly say that some of its points are not very clearly made). So, lets try again:

1. I agree that sledging doesn't always translate into cricketing success - plenty of teams sledge, the good ones win but thats because they played better. So sledging is actually orthogonal to cricketing ability? And hence, sledging perhaps contributes nothing by way of quality to the Australian cricketing scene either? It is, so to speak, an embellishment?

2. Please don't get so hung up on the toss business. As I point out, plenty of Australians have found plenty of things their own cricketers did just as bad, if not worse. I can find you dozens and dozens of references. And how, by any stretch of the imagination, imagine Ganguly turning up late for the toss, as an insult to the nation is beyond me. A cricket captain turns up late for the toss and the whole nation is insulted? If thats the case, and let me assure you, cricket is far, far, more important in India than it will ever be in Australia, you should also agree that McGrath giving Tendulkar a send-off also insulted an entire nation? Please, entire nations don't get insulted in the way you imagine.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ganguly is justified in whatever he did - Indians had had enough from the Aussies and it was essential to give a few uncivilized fellas, a taste of their own medicine in an uncivilized manner.

And who cares a damn about individual cultures?

8:12 AM  
Anonymous jassi said...

oops it says anonymous ... the id is Jassi

8:14 AM  

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