In defence of sledging

Earlier this week the cricketing community witnessed a robe clad Faf Du Plessis intervene in heated discussions between David Warner and Quinton De Kock.

A mere few days later Kagiso Rabada, for a man who has already been fined for his outlandish wicket ‘celebrations’, gave some almighty sendoffs to the Australians during his spell of 5-13.

While some are quick to assign this behaviour to other sports – such as football – and believe that it has no place in the Gentlemen’s game. I for one, believe that this sort of sledging can reignite interest in an otherwise dying Test game.

Fans do not buy into series solely based on the cricket, although a major factor, there also has to be a story such as the 2005 ashes, Ganguly’s shirt waving in the 2007 Natwest Final or even going back as far as Tony Greig’s infamous “grovel” comments are all examples of quality cricket with underlying feuds and tensions which allowed fans to engage in the contests.

Look at boxing for example, where trash talk and rivalry is key to the overall contest. Boxers Derek Chisora and Shannon Briggs, relatively modest boxers, earn huge sums and garner huge audiences by throwing tables or muttering “let’s go champ” a few times.

If this is how test cricket must develop to draw in crowds in places like South Africa, West indies and India then I think the ICC should seriously consider sending messages that they want to see competitive cricket and if that involves the occasional borderline sledge then so be it.

One of the most entertaining test series in our time, the 2005 Ashes in England, was constantly filled with sledging from both sets of players. In modern cricket, The Ashes is often more about mind games and sledging, rather than the actual cricket.

“Obviously a line needs to be drawn as we can not have children copying some of the alleged comments from both Warner and De Kock. But mollycoddling the players to the extent that every time there is an exuberant send off players are charged is not the way to go.”

The sledging was also complimented with sportsmanship – think Freddie Flintoff consoling Brett Lee after England’s two run victory at Edgbaston.

Another irk to my mind is the constant idea that sledging is somehow worse in this era than any other era. We often hear how in previous generations there was a gentlemanly aspect to sledging.

However, is this actually the case or is it the fact that without stump mics and spidercams that these borderline sledges were not picked up or forgotten quickly?

Surely this must be the case if you take a look at some of the hot head cricketers of the past. For example, is what Kagiso Rabada does any worse than say DK Lillee? Personally I would argue no.

Obviously a line needs to be drawn as we can not have children copying some of the alleged comments from both Warner and De Kock. But mollycoddling the players to the extent that every time there is an exuberant send off players are charged is not the way to go.

So lets embrace the sledging and realise that the game must adapt or die and revel in the media attention focused towards Test cricket after such events.


Image: Telegraph

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