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Sledging in cricket: What it means, history and notable instances

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Sledging in cricket can be defined as the act of unsettling an opposition player, often through the use of verbal warnings or even insults, as an attempt to make them lose concentration, which results in a dip in performance levels.

Though batters, bowlers or fielders can all be subjected to or indulge in sledging, more often than not batters are on the receiving end.

The term, most commonly associated with the Australian cricket team, can take different forms. Often aimed at being humorous, sledging in cricket sometimes gets aggressive and turns into a personal abuse - either by words or action.

When was sledging in cricket first used?

Richard Nyren is the first known player to use sledging in cricket, according to cricket author Alan Tyers.

Representing Men of Hampshire XXII in a match against XXX Red Hot Hampshire Men, Nyren got into an altercation with batter John Small shouted at his bowler: "Bowle hymme a harpsichord, see if he can playeth that."

Some cricket historians, however, credit W.G. Grace as the father of sledging. During a match in the 1800s, when he was bowled out, Grace is said to have told the umpire, “T’was the wind which took the bail off, good sir.” and in reply, the umpire replied, “Indeed, Doctor! and let us hope the wind helps thee on thy journey back to the pavilion.”

Is sledging legal in cricket?

Sledging has become a part of modern day cricket and as of today, it is almost universally accepted in all formats.

There are no definitive laws to punish sledging in cricket, but should a sledge turn into a personal abuse or gestures of racism, then the player in question is interrogated and punished as per the relevant ICC codes of conduct.

When did Indian cricketers start sledging?

One of the earliest instances when an Indian cricketer sledged in cricket was back in the 1991-92 season.

During India’s tour of Australia, Australian fast bowler Mike Whitney was on the field as a substitute. When Ravi Shastri hit a ball toward Whitney and contemplated on taking a single, the latter intercepted the ball and warned the Indian all-rounder, “Stay in your crease or I’ll break your f***ing head”.

Shastri, in reply, said, “If you could bowl as well as you talk, you wouldn’t be the f***ing 12th man!”

Forward to the 21st century, some of the most notable sledging incidents involving Indians are as follows:

2007: During an ICC T20 World Cup match between India and England, all-rounders Andrew Flintoff and Yuvraj Singh engaged in a war of words. Yuvraj ended up saying, "You see this bat in my hand. You know where I am gonna hit you with this bat?" In the next over, bowled by Stuart Broad, the flamboyant Indian slammed six sixes.

2008: In the Sydney Test between Australia and India, Harbhajan Singh sledged Brett Lee with a “hard luck” comment after hitting him for boundary. Andrew Symonds came over and had a few exchanges with Harbhajan which suddenly took a drastic turn as Symonds claimed that the Indian star apparently used a term in his native tongue. While the details are still unclear, the popular theory seems to be Harbhajan said "teri maa ki" (an offensive Hindi phrase) which, to Symonds, sounded like the Indian had called him a monkey. Eventually, Harbhajan was given a three-match ban and it was one of the major instances of racism in cricket.

Author: William Paul

Featured photo: AFP / William West

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