Port Elizabeth - David Warner’s team-mates call him the Reverend.
Ever since Warner abandoned his life of bar-room scuffles and on-field malarkey, the Australian cricketer’s team-mates see him as a new man. But sometimes a bit of the old Warner is seen on the pitch.
Although sledging is not a solely Australian phenomenon, the Aussies do it exceedingly well. Take former Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee, for example.
During the centenary test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1977, English batsman Derek Randall spent an awful lot of time ducking Lillee’s bouncers. At one point, Randall, who was not wearing a helmet, stood to attention and doffed his cap, asking Lillee if he could spare some change.
The bowler was incensed. He ran in and almost knocked Randall’s head off. Randall got up, dusted himself off and said: “It’s no good hitting me there, mate. There’s nothing to damage.”
Randall played and missed so often that Lillee became exasperated. The Aussie marched down the wicket and said: “Let’s do it this way; you hold the bat out and I’ll try to hit it.”
The Melbourne Cricket Ground was where former Australian captain Shane Warne and South African cricketer Daryll Cullinan’s rivalry was born. Whether it was there or at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Cullinan wasn’t adept at picking the flipper.
Four years after they first met, the two squared off again.
In an interview with a newspaper, Cullinan revealed that he had sought the help of a psychologist to deal with his mental demons.
He said he had spent too much time playing the man and not the ball. He was, he intimated, a new man and a new player.
Warne read the article and scoffed.
“When I bowled out Adam Bacher, the next batsman was Daryll,” said Warne.
“He played out the last ball of the over and I was lingering around. Tubby Taylor told me to get back to my mark. As Daryll was still in earshot, I said: ‘Just wait a minute. So what colour was the [psychologist’s] couch?’”
Bacher said he was not prepared for his first sledging encounter at the hands of an Australian fielder he would not name.
“He went all out,” said Bacher. “I hadn’t experienced anything like that before. It was just me and him all the time, not something everyone heard because it wasn’t being shouted loudly from gully. It made me pretty uncomfortable until I got runs on the board.”
In one test against Australia, Bacher was minding his own business at short-leg when Steve Waugh let rip.
“He gave me a mouthful. He was facing Allan Donald and Brett Schultz, so he needed to get their blood boiling. That’s the way he played.”
Waugh’s invective against Bacher was a trick he learnt from Border, who used to pick a fight with his opponents to get the competitive juices flowing.
However, former South African fast bowler André Nel didn’t need to manufacture drama because he was capable of going ballistic from the first ball.
Nel didn’t think much of the verbal jousting and subsequent hysteria that followed the altercation between Proteas wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Australian vice-captain David Warner. The two were involved in a heated quarrel on day four of the first test at Kingsmead in Durban on Sunday.
“These guys need to man up and get on with it,” he said, adding that he couldn’t remember many of his sledges because they were often said in the heat of the moment.
“I’d go cuckoo for a while, but our technical analyst Gustav Obermeyer used to say it was because I didn’t have enough oxygen in my brain. I became a bit of a joke to the guys.”
The power of words is overrated. People forget that silence can also be a weapon of destruction. Bacher recalls having a go at short-leg during a match at St Georges Park.
“I started off quite well and got a bit cocky. This got back to the dressing room. When Eldine Baptiste came out to bat, he played out the last ball of the over. Instead of walking to mid-pitch for a chat with his partner, he walked all the way to where I was fielding and just stared at me,” Bacher said.
“I didn’t know what to do and I just wanted the ground to swallow me. He made a huge impact without saying a word.”