Even before this Ashes had begun the now commonplace sledging had commenced. Way back in October this year David Warner said Australia must find “some sort of hatred” for England and that he plans to continue the verbal aggression when the two sides meet for the first test on 23 November.
Warner famously said England’s players had “scared eyes” when facing up to the shortpitched pace barrage of Mitchell Johnson midway through the first Test of the 2013-14 series. Nathan Lyon has been warning the English that Australia’s fast bowlers are relishing the prospect of ‘ending careers’. Sledging is now an accepted and eagerly anticipated part of the Series. It is now an integral part of the build-up too. There have been many famous sledges in the Ashes series before such as when Mark Waugh said to James Ormond, that he ‘clearly was not good enough… to play for England’ only for Ormond to retort ‘Maybe so, but at least I’m the best player in my family’. But sledging is not restricted to cricket. It is something that occurs in most sports.

Steve Boucher

Muhammad Ali was a master at sledging, and often made caustic comments about his opponents, such as famously saying he had seen George Foreman shadow boxing and the shadow won. There have been many classic sledges over the years, but whereas there always seemed to be some fun and clever banter in the past, too often in recent times the sledging has trended towards becoming more threatening and serious. Is it really acceptable to talk of ‘hatred’ and bowlers ‘killing’ a batsman? There have been calls in the past by some of the leading cricketers for the sledging to stop so that the game can be played in the right spirit. The danger is that the sledging is ramped up as matches progress and increasingly becomes more threatening. In fact, when does sledging turn into more worrying forms of gamesmanship bordering on cheating? At the recent match between Peru and New Zealand to determine who would get the final berth at the FIFA World Cup in Russia next year there were some dubious practices which bordered on cheating. Apart from the curses placed on the Kiwis by shamans, they had to endure suspicious flight delays, a journey to the ground where the coach
driver took the wrong entrance and got stuck and a huge firework display over the team hotel in the early hours of the morning just before the match. But worst of all was the fact that lasers were being shone into the eyes of some of the players, including goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. Is this really acceptable behaviour? Had this happened to one of the major footballing nations, perhaps FIFA would have been pressured more to take a look. Unfortunately, these days there is so much at stake that often players or teams resort to almost any tactics to win. Surely it is not in the best interests of sport for this to continue unchecked. We all enjoy some witty banter, but when things get threatening or dirty tricks are involved, we really should say enough is enough and we need the governing bodies of sport to step in and say so. To not do so, they are potentially leaving themselves open to legal action if someone goes too far. At the very least, such non-action brings into question the relevance of the various behavioural Codes most sports have in place, and the commitment of the sports to their application.