Those following the South Africa v/s Australia test series, would have heard about the now infamous incident involving Quinton de Kock and David Warner. De Kock is alleged to have said something unmentionable about Warner’s wife to him, which resulted in the latter’s angry reaction and having to be physically separated from the former. The Australian players have been remarkably direct in their support for David Warner’s reaction to the slur. In their view, De Kock crossed “the line” when getting personal and bringing family into sledging. The South African cricket team coach, Otis Gibson, was almost poetic in his response.
Sharada Ugra commented on the Aussie way with sledging and I could not agree more with her. From the time that I can remember, the most famous sledges, on-field “banter”, flare-ups, etc. have involved Australian players. Michael Slater having a go at Rahul Dravid in a test match in India, Stephen Waugh’s sledges to Ambrose and later, to Herschelle Gibbs, Glen McGrath v/s Ramnaresh Sarwan, parts I and II, Mitchell Starc v/s many, Steve Smith’s brain fade are some that come to mind almost immediately. The most impressive part of all of these transgressions on the cricket field is that almost always, the Aussie cricketers seem to get away with hardly any censorship. It appears, then, that the problem is always with the opposition player. Now, that is a skill worth acquiring.
In the latest episode, it is laughable that they call an abuse involving the family, a personal affront. It is rich, coming from the Aussies. Somehow, asking Ramnaresh Sarwan, what Brian Lara’s d**k tastes like is not personal. But, telling the same Aussie to ask his wife is crossing “the line”. There are so many double standards involved in this, that it appears that any Australian player involved in the game at present cannot see it. So, we will have past players such as Adam Gilchrist, talking of how shameful their behavior is, blah blah blah. He was party to all the sledges and abuse being thrown by his partner, not more than a couple of feet away at first slip for the so many years, Mathew Hayden. He was known to have a mean mouth. So, where was all of this righteousness during their playing days? It appears that the good sense arrives with contracts to play in the IPL or post-retirement “expert” duties. After retirement, the line seems to have shifted somewhat. Not the line for the contracts, but of what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
Admittedly, for every sportsman, it is fun to talk trash during a game. Depending on the frame of mind and the opponent, I have spoken with them too. It has been more on the lines of “You can’t get by me”, or “Oh! watch out, you’ll miss your teammate there” and such. Abuse of any kind is obviously not the thing to do. In its purest form, sport is ultimately about having fun. What is the fun in calling someone names; bullying or abusing opponents? For these elite sportsman, it is obviously a privilege to actually play in front of millions of viewers and be paid for having fun. Why would anyone want to spoil it for themselves, by being downright abusive?
The only way to get over these lines is education. Every new team member in every national squad, worldwide, must be educated about the lines they must not cross, no matter what. The governing bodies interfere when there is physical action taken for abuse, they would do well to introduce methods to counter the trigger for the physical action too. Training and a primer on what lines to not cross, would be a start. Let the players have fun. After all, the reason that we play sport is to have fun.
The line belongs to the spectators. Not anyone else. All players would do well to remember that.