Rod Marsh : “So how’s your wife and my kids?”
Ian Botham : “The wife is fine but the kids are retarded”
Sledging is the idea of trying to break the concentration of the opposing player through verbal or physical insults or witticisms. Although the idea of trying to distract opposition players through verbal abuse or trash talking is not unique to cricket at all, Sledging is what it is known as in the cricketing world
Test cricket depends greatly upon the players mental fortitude, with concentration required through five days of play. The batsman is in a constant state of isolation, partnered with only one comrade, surrounded by 11 opponents. It is no wonder that Steve Waugh called it ‘Mental Disintegration’. He was of the opinion that if you were not good enough to withstand the sledging, then you probably were not good enough to be successful in the sport in any case.
Merv Hughes called it the art of verbal intimidation.
Whatever you call it, it makes for some fantastic anecdotes.
Such the exchange between Viv Richards and Greg Thomas during a county game. After beating Richards bat a few times Thomas told Richards:“It’s red, round and weighs about 5 ounces in case you were wondering.” Richards smashed the next delivery out of the grounds and into a nearby river. Turning to Thomas, he said:“Greg, you know what it looks like, now go and find it.”
Or the exchange that took place between Shane Warne and Australian Team mate Michael Slater during a state cricket game. Slater was struggling for form and was widley regarded as having a short fuse. Warne, not shying away from sledging an Australian team mate decided to get under Slater’s skin by suggesting that his temper was like a time-bomb.
When Slater came out to bat, Warne and Victorian team mate Darren Berry began the tandem sledging:
After several overs, Slater got impatient and holed out to deep midwicket. As he trudged off, he glared at Warne and Berry, who yelled in unison “Kaboom!”.
While the Australians may have a reputation for being unconscionable sledger’s, they are by no means the only nation to take part in some verbal intimidation. Perhaps it is just the Australians natural talent for abuse that has given them a reputation as notorious sledger’s.
But the art of getting under the skin and into the mind of your opponents has been part and parcel of the game of cricket since the very beginnings of the sport. WG Grace, an instrumental figure in the very development of the game was well known for it.
And though fans of the sledge maintain that it is all done in good faith, there have been times when the verbal sparring has landed players in hot water. Or caused international incidents.
Like it or loath it, as long as there is cricket, there will be sledging. And as long as there is sledging, there will be some fantastic stories to tell about it.