London - The Cricket World Cup promises to feature plenty of big-hitting and dramatic
bowling, but will there be verbal fireworks too? Not if the International
Cricket Council can help it.
"Over the last six months, or even going back further to the last
Ashes series, there have been too many examples of player behaviour
going too far and overstepping the boundaries of acceptability," ICC
chief executive David Richardson said.
"The amount of sledging (verbal abuse) and disrespect shown by
players to each other was bad," the former South Africa wicketkeeper
added as he promised match referees would come down hard on sledging at
the World Cup.
Many of the best remembered 'sledges' have been relatively amusing.
For example, England fast bowler Greg Thomas once told West Indies
great Vivian Richards "it's red, round and weighs about five ounces in
case you were wondering" after beating the outside edge only for the
'Master Blaster', having smacked the next ball out of the ground, to
reply: "You know what it looks like, you go fetch it".
However, there has been little humour in the obscene or crude taunts
of recent times, with Australia captain Michael Clarke telling James
Anderson to "get ready for a broken arm" when the England tailender was
batting during the last Ashes series.
Fiery Australian opener David Warner was involved in several
altercations during India's recent tour but coach Darren Lehmann said he
was happy with the batsman's aggression.
"If the ICC decides we cross the line, then they'll come down on us - we all know that," Lehmann said.
"We're always going to teeter pretty close to it - that's the way
that we play - we've just got to make sure that we don't cross it."
With cricket unusual amongst many major team sports in that its
leading teams come from a variety of cultural backgrounds - European,
Asian and Afro-Caribbean - the problem is that where Australia draw the
line may well be different from their opponents.
Such was Australia's dominance in the 1990s and 2000s, when skipper
Steve Waugh gave sledging the rather more dignified status of "mental
disintegration" that many sides followed suit, even though plenty of the
game's most greatest players -- such as legendary West Indies fast
bowler Malcolm Marshall - rarely bothered with 'verbals' and were often
rather more 'aggressive' than the sledgers they came up against.
Unlike other sports, cricket's on-field umpires have not traditionally
had a disciplinary function allowing them to impose an immediate
punishment for poor behaviour which has some bearing on the match in
Given the fines imposed are rarely a deterrent and don't tend to lead
to suspensions - although Lehmann himself was banned for five one-day
games for a “racially motivated obscenity” after he had been run out by
Sri Lanka in 2003 - most players carry on as they always did.
New Zealand great Martin Crowe has called for the introduction of a
yellow and red card system, common to many other sports, into cricket -
which has traditionally prided itself on being a "gentlemen's game".
Meanwhile Ian Chappell has said he fears it can only be a matter of
time before things get so heated that a physical clash ensues.
However, Chappell's remarks may provoke a wry reaction.
When New Zealand won their first Test match against Australia, in
Christchurch in 1974, they did so on the back of a hundred in each
innings from Glenn Turner.
The batsman asked for an apology from Chappell, Australia's captain
in that match, for the abuse he had been subjected to on the field, with
the Sydney Daily Telegraph commenting it was not the first time the
skipper had lost his self-control on the field.
But the forthright Chappell was in no mood to apologise, saying: "I believe what happens on the field should stay there".
However, as Chappell knows only too well in his role as a respected
television commentator, modern technology means that's rarely the case.