It’s just not cricket any more

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Ian Chap­pell didn’t in­vent the term ‘‘ sledg­ing’’ in cricket, but he cer­tainly em­braced it as a player.

In a clas­sic case of poacher turned game­keeper, he is now warn­ing of the dan­gers of sledg­ing, sug­gest­ing it could lead to play­ers belt­ing each other.

Chap­pell’s warn­ing should be heeded. Cricket of­fi­cials need to act de­ci­sively to get rid of this poi­son from their game.

Sledg­ing – the ver­bal abuse of an op­po­nent – gained cur­rency un­der Chap­pell’s Aus­tralian teams in the 1970s, when vis­it­ing bats­men were given a go­ing over by Chap­pell, Rod Marsh, Den­nis Lillee, Jeff Thom­son and com­pany.

Since then, the ugly prac­tice has spread around the world.

In most sports, play­ers try to beat each other with skill.

But for rea­sons that elude me, in cricket it has be­come ac­cept­able to try to put op­po­nents off their game by abus­ing them.

Imag­ine Roger Fed­erer or Tiger Woods try­ing to win by bad-mouthing an op­po­nent in the heat of the ac­tion.

The ten­nis and golf worlds would be ap­palled. In cricket, it’s ap­par­ently OK. There hasn’t been a ful­lyfledged punch-up in big cricket that I can re­call – so far.

West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft barged um­pire Fred Goodall in Christchurch in 1980. And Lillee and Pak­istan bats­man Javed Mian­dad got into a scuf­fle at Perth in 1981.

But there hasn’t been a real hay­maker de­liv­ered on the pitch. As Chap­pell says, it’s com­ing. David Warner was heav­ily crit­i­cised af­ter the first Ashes test when he said: ‘‘Eng­land are on the back foot and it does look like they’ve got scared eyes.

‘‘The way Trotty [Jonathan Trott] got out was pretty poor and pretty weak. Ob­vi­ously there’s a weak­ness there.’’

Warner had ap­par­ently bro­ken a cu­ri­ous cricket code of ethics by crit­i­cis­ing Trott off the park.

In cricket, any­thing that’s said on the field is fine, but not off it. I don’t un­der­stand that. To my mind, Warner’s re­lent­lessly abu­sive tirade against the Eng­land bats­men on the field and Aus­tralian cap­tain Michael Clarke’s warn­ing to tailen­der Jimmy An­der­son to get ready to have his f*** arm bro­ken were ap­palling.

I don’t mean to pick on just the Aussies.

Nearly all test teams now in­dulge in un­savoury on-field abuse.

New Zealan­ders have been as bad as any, and per­haps more of a laugh­ing stock be­cause they so sel­dom back up their threats with good play.

How­ever, it was for­mer Aus­tralian cap­tain Steve Waugh who le­git­imised sledg­ing by terming it ‘‘ men­tal dis­in­te­gra­tion’’.

Worse, he was praised as a mas­ter of the ‘‘art’’.

Why does cricket tol­er­ate the sort of be­hav­iour that on any street cor­ner could lead to ar­rest?

It’s time cricket of­fi­cials got se­ri­ous. The um­pires should be em­pow­ered to step in and take de­ci­sive ac­tion.

If the lan­guage be­comes ex­ces­sive, um­pires should have the power to send play­ers from the field for a pe­riod – per­haps the rest of an in­nings or match.

And the um­pires have to know they will be sup­ported by match ref­er­ees and the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil.

If the un­pleas­ant scenes in the first Ashes test in Bris­bane weren’t enough, of­fi­cials should heed Chap­pell’s mes­sage.

No-one played harder than he did.

If he’s say­ing that ‘‘enough is enough’’, it would pay to lis­ten.

Photo: REUTERS

Timely mes­sage: Ian Chap­pell was once a nasty sledger, but he is now warn­ing of its dan­gers.

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