Sledging has always been a part of Australian cricket, and has become a part of the international game, but there is a fine line between intimidating a batsman with the intent put him of his game and simple boorish behaviour. It would appear that so stung by defeat in consecutive Ashes series and stinging criticism Michael Clarke and his team are prepared to cross that line.
Clarke who has in the main conducted himself admirably as a captain in a stuttering team, let the pressure get to him yesterday when he raised his finger and wagged it at tail-ender Jimmy Anderson and uttered the words for all on television to hear, “get ready for a f#$%ing broken arm.” This coming one week after Socceroos captain Lucas Neill’s F-word was picked up by television cameras; yet there have been few who have called for Clarke’s head as some of the football media did for Neill’s.
It is understandable that there is going to be tension out in the middle, but one expects the captain to keep his head and control those about him as they lose theirs and that is where Clarke as the captain and leader has let himself and the team down. Mike Gatting was castigated when he found himself in that situation in Pakistan in 1987.
Alistair Cook the England captain has tried to play things down and has stated that back to back Ashes series were always likely to increase the intensity on the pitch “When you play each other for quite a few games in a row the niggles can grow. It is competitive cricket,” Cook said.
Despite the obvious barbed comments coming from both teams it is not good for cricket when microphones on the pitch pick up comments such as Clarke’s. Neither is it pleasing to see umpires having to intervene, as Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena were forced to do. The umpires in the second test may well find they have a great deal more to do than simply adjudicate dismissals and signal to the scorers unless Clarke check’s his and his team’s behaviour.
‘Sledging’ has been around for decades, and not just in cricket, and it always will be. There is no need to ban it, as it is a part of the mental battle of sport at the highest level, but it should never get to a stage where the captain of one team behaves as Clarke did. If the captain cannot control his emotions in the heat of battle, things have a habit of getting out of control.
One area though that should be looked at and controlled is the behaviour of mercurial talent David Warner. It is one thing to sledge in the middle but there is an unwritten rule that one shows some respect off of the pitch, or says nothing. Warner is an incredibly talented batsman of that there can be no doubt, but with his thumping of Joe Root, his tweeting on Twitter and his recent press conference he has confirmed that he is nothing more than an oaf when off the pitch. Whoever made the decision to put him forward for a press conference will hopefully think twice before doing it again. Warner should let his bat do the talking and keep his mouth shut, that way when his career comes to a close his achievements on the field will outweigh memories of his off field gaffes.
There is no doubt this summer of cricket is heating up…