Sledging: really, is it just not cricket?

England's paceman James Anderson (L) shouts after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's Imrul Kayes (R) during the 2015 Cricket World Cup , friendly rivalry! Photo: Getty Images. 

England's paceman James Anderson (L) shouts after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's Imrul Kayes (R) during the 2015 Cricket World Cup , friendly rivalry! Photo: Getty Images. 

by G.S.Rogers

On-field encounter between Australian spin bowler Shane Warne and South African batsman Daryl Cullinan.

Warne: I’ve been waiting two years to have another go at you.

Cullinan: Looks like you’ve spent it eating.

Ah, sledging. The art (ahem) of putting your opponent off their game by hurling insults at them. Carry-on that seems part and parcel of the cricket we know, and apparently, it’s largely we Aussies who are to blame. We started it, so the story goes. Oh yea. Back in ye olde 1970s.

Of course, these days we cop it sweet right back (from everyone except the Kiwis, who have recently pledged to avoid the sledge) but fair enough, right? Weren’t we all told as children not to dish it if you can’t take it?

New Zealand now refrain from any sledging on the field. Photo: Getty Images. 

New Zealand now refrain from any sledging on the field. Photo: Getty Images. 

It’s not just the fellas either. There’re plenty of stories about that the gals are in on the act with their own fierce taunting.

Now, there are plenty of people who will stand up and condemn sledging as behavior not suited to the good-mannered game of cricket. It’s not proper manners, is it, to slag off the other players? To have a go when they’re all just out there, doing their best?

Others though, see sledging as understandable, in a sport where players can spend long days out in the full sun, waiting for a bit of action, itching to get the next batter out, counting the hours til it’s their turn to have a go.

Australian Captain Steve Smith gets vocal during a cricket match. Photo: Getty Images. 

Australian Captain Steve Smith gets vocal during a cricket match. Photo: Getty Images. 

Cricket can be a long, slow day at the office. Who wouldn’t want to ramp up the action with a bit of competitive repartee?

Well actually, not just the players. Way before the 1970s – in fact in the 1920s and 1930s – there was a regular member of the crowd at cricket games in Sydney who became famous for his off-field taunts. Yabba (was his moniker) would call out to the players from the general admission area:

Even the Yorkshire Vikings mascot is taking part in some tongue in cheek rivalry. Photo: Getty Images. 

Even the Yorkshire Vikings mascot is taking part in some tongue in cheek rivalry. Photo: Getty Images. 

"I wish you were a statue and I were a pigeon."

England’s 1932-33 tour (which has become known as the Bodyline tour, for England’s bowling tactics) particularly provoked his ire:

Calling out to England’s captain, Douglas Jardine, who was swatting flies: "Leave our flies alone, Jardine. They're the only friends you've got here.”

So famous a participant in Australian cricket, in 2008 he was immortalised in bronze at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The bronze sculpture of iconic Sydney Cricket Ground supporter Stephen Harold Gascoigne, known as 'Yabba' at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Getty Images. 

The bronze sculpture of iconic Sydney Cricket Ground supporter Stephen Harold Gascoigne, known as 'Yabba' at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Photo: Getty Images. 

Today it’s said that it was the likes of Ian Chappell and Rod Marsh, in the 1970s, who really put Australia on the map as known sledgers. And maybe they did, but maybe also, for a game that has traditionally taken a long time, been played in the hot sun, and has had on-lookers ready to chime in on the commentary, on-field banter has been the only way players have stayed sane.