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Off late the controversy involving Sunil Gavaskar and the Australian cricket team has been snowballing out of control. The whole thing started off with Gavaskar opening up the topic of sledging and accusing the Australians of being the primary perpetrators. He accused the Australian team of being abusive on the field of play. He went on to say that the Australians are the most unpopular champions in the history of the game.
As can be expected the Australians, especially their current captain Ricky Ponting, were none too happy about it. He responded strongly by referring to Gavaskar’s walkout of a test match when he was captain of the Indian team over alleged abuse from the Australian team. He also put his foot in his mouth when he then went on to talk of unrelated topics like India’s performance lately.
However if anyone thought that would be the last they would hear of the matter they were proved wrong as Gavaskar decided to put his foot in the mouth as well. He responded to Ricky Ponting by saying that the language the Australians use on the field could get them into trouble in a bar. He even cited the example of David Hookes, a former Australian player who got killed in a bar incident. This stirred a lot of strong reactions from Australian players including Allan Border.
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My personal take on the subject is that both Gavaskar and Ponting crossed the line by responding to comments made by each other. It was wrong on Ponting’s part to respond to such kind of comments. He would have been better served if he gave the answer on the field with their performance and conduct. As for Gavaskar, dragging in Hooke’s name into the whole thing was totally uncalled for. He should have shown a lot more respect to the memories of a deceased person.
My whole take on sledging is slightly different from that of Gavaskar. In the heat of the moment, in the middle of a crunch situation, it could and will get a bit volatile out there. But doesn’t that add more color and character to the whole proceedings?
International cricket is not about a bunch of small kids playing in the local park for them to be protected from such intensity. They are more than capable of taking it and dishing it out back to them in equal terms.
Sledging creates some funny banter from time to time. My favorites are the stories involving Merv Hughes. It is said that after being hit all over the ground in a match by Hansie Cronje, he went down the pitch to Cronje, stood near him and farted!!! He followed it up with the line “Try hitting that for a boundary”.
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Another memorable incident was when Viv Richard, upon being stared by Merv said “In my culture we don’t stare”. Merv got him out later and said “In my culture we just say F**k off”.
Merv has got it back from others too. After Robin Smith played and missed a delivery Merv snarled at him and said “You f**king can’t bat”. Robin Smith hit the next ball for a four and replied “We make quite a pair, don’t we? I f**king cant bat and you f**king can’t ball”.
But the one I like the most was from Fred Trueman. In a county game one of his team mates miss fielded the ball by letting it get through between his legs. Trueman’s reply, “No you bastard, your mother should have”.
Sledging is not always fun to bear for the players. Take for instance the McGrath – Sarwan incident. McGrath started it by asking Sarwan, “Tell me, how does Brian Lara’s d**k taste like”. Sarwan promptly replied “Ask your wife”. The bid to instigate Sarwan and make him lose his cool backfired on the Aussie and McGrath went berserk accompanied by a few of his team mates. The reason – his wife was battling cancer. Earlier McGrath wasn’t so touchy about his wife. Once he had asked the plump Eddo Brandes “Why are you so f**king fat?” Brandes replied, “That’s because every time I had sex with your wife, she gave me biscuit.” Play resumed only after 5 minutes as every on the field was rolling over with laughter.
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The principle of sledging is that if you can’t take it back then don’t give it. If you can’t take it at all then the message should be, “sorry mate, but this isn’t boys scout.” As a footnote, I haven’t see McGrath sledge after the Sarwan incident.