The Australians always say that they play the game hard and sledging is part of their game plan.
Aggression on the field of play is fine to an extent today but when it extends beyond the boundary, it should be not tolerated.
The recent spat between Australian vice-captain David Warner and South African Quinton de Kock got more heated when they reached the stairwell at Kingsmead, Durban. It is claimed that both made personal remarks regarding each other’s families before teammates separated them. It could have got uglier if teammates hadn’t intervened.
Things are getting out of hand now. Everybody thinks that they are the cat’s whiskers and sledging makes them out to be an aggressive player who is to be admired. A little bit of sledging was always tolerated in cricket during the early days. Sledging usually meant some funny remark where everybody laughed and had a good time.
Firebrand cricketers like Fred Trueman always directed a bit of sarcasm towards batsmen who couldn’t read him but it always evoked laughter.
But things began to get worse when the Australians began to make sledging into a fine art. They added fearsome expressions and sarcastic laughter along with choice expletives. Others followed.
Even docile Sub-continent teams picked it up later and began to give it back as good as it gets. There were also elements of racism involved and abusing and mocking became more frequent. Rude send-offs, deliberate body butting and arguments abounded. The International Cricket Council (ICC) came up with stricter actions including docking points and bans.
But it does not seem as if it is deterring the players. Raving, ranting and rude gestures are still prevalent in the game. There are only a few ways this kind of rubbish can be stopped. The umpires on the field must be given more powers. Like football they should be even able to send off a player if it needs be.
However, this is never going to be easy. The umpires are mostly bullied by bigger teams like Australia, England or South Africa and even India now.
They are afraid to go beyond a point. The bigger teams use all their clout to pressure the umpire. Their vindictive press also joins in on the issue. Backing from the usually impotent ICC is not assured so the umpire, being human, gives more leeway to the bigger teams. It is imperative that the ICC give full support to the umpire, irrespective of who is playing. Only then the umpire will be able to take on-field decisions without fear.
The ICC should be more proactive and strengthen the laws if cricketers don’t behave. Having a sin bin like in ice hockey would also be a good idea. This will deprive the entire team of a player for a period of time.
The ICC is slow mover. It takes its own time to come to decisions. It is hoped they do something we have murder and mayhem on the field. It should not be forgotten that millions of youngsters are watching these matches on television and aping their stars. We don’t want young players behaving like superbrats even before they make their mark.
And let’s not forget. We used to call cricket “A Gentleman’s Game” once!