Sledging has become an inevitable part of Australian cricket, but that does not mean it should be.
Australia batsman David Warner has been forced to defend his part in an on-field spat with Rohit Sharma, in which he allegedly told the India player to “speak English”.
Warner has not only been widely slammed, but was also fined 50% of his match fee for “conduct contrary to the spirit of the game”, BBC Sport reports.
In an unapologetic statement, Warner justified himself by insisting that Sharma had been talking in Hindi, to which he responded by “politely” - though video evidence suggests otherwise - asking him to speak in a common language.
Regardless of his motives, it is difficult to blame the 28-year-old for thinking that his actions were nothing more than an expression of Australia’s treasured ‘sledging’ culture.
Fast bowler Merv Hughes was crucial in embedding that example into their game in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As cricket has moved on, however, and is ever more in danger of losing its self-proclaimed monopoly on sportsmanship, there is a danger that the thin line between sledging and personal abuse can be crossed all too easily.
Though they are few, in some respects, sledging adds an element of character to the game. England are among a number of national sides to complain in the past about the Baggy Green’s tendency to take their unsporting comments too far.
Even as recently as Australia’s third Test with India last month, Virat Kohli took exception to comments by pace bowler Mitchell Johnson.
Of all the current incumbents of the Aussie jersey, it is little surprise that Warner has adopted an overly-aggressive, gladiatorial manner. Yet, just as he was reprimanded – and dropped – for punching England’s Joe Root in 2013, he must be kept in check when dishing out verbal hostility.
Making matters more complex is the question of who that responsibility falls to. With umpires already under pressure, the guidelines outlining what is and is not acceptable with regard to sledging should be laid out by captains and coaches before matches.
If measures are not taken, Warner’s actions will be thoroughly detrimental to Cricket Australia; their reputation has again been called into question, and perhaps causing more irritancy, a perfectly good victory over India has been overshadowed.