What is it with send-offs? What is the point of that aggression after the batsman has been dismissed and is heading for the tunnel?
I can understand chirping, the plan to ‘get into the batsman’s head’, or ‘under their skin’ as the Australians so euphemistically call it, on the grounds, I suppose, that the natural talent of their bowlers is not enough. They freely admit it is part of their arsenal.
But what is the point of telling a batsman to F-off when he has been dismissed, or to scream obscenities in their face, or to nonchalantly insult a batsman at the end of a session? That is just crude, puerile and a waste of energy.
Actually, even the word ‘chirping’ is being much abused.
Gone are the days of wit, as in Merv Hughes to Robin Smith: ‘If you turn the bat over, you’ll get the instructions mate’; or Rod Marsh to Ian Botham: ‘So how’s your wife and my kids?’. Botham: ‘Wife’s fine. Kid’s are retarded’.
Now it’s just sexually anatomical, with no word too strong. Just race, religion and sexual orientation remain taboo.
There is too much leniency given to players who resort to such base behaviour, on the grounds that ‘That is who he is’ or ‘It’s good to show passion.’
I have a photograph of Dale Steyn, immediately after he had taken a big wicket. He is down on one knee, his fist pumping, focused internally on his success; contained. Is there anyone out there prepared to tell him to his face he did not have ‘passion’?
He did not spray spittle or show the vicious fury that many are displaying nowadays. Glenn McGrath was a pretty successful bowler, and I don’t remember him dropping to such low levels. He could chirp all right, and chirp with the best of them, but once the job was done, he was pretty cool.
And this idea that overt aggression (after the wicket) is needed to make a bowler better is a fallacy.
Take, for example, Kagiso Rabada. He got his first demerit points in February 2017, when he ‘made inappropriate contact’ with Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dikwella, and within a year, had picked up two more for using disproportionately colourful language and suffered the indignity of being banned from the third Test in England. Two Tests into the Australia series, he had been charged twice more.
In the 14 Test matches played before his first indiscretion, Rabada had taken 63 wickets, with an innings best of 7-112 and a match record of 13-144, which stand today, at a strike rate of 36.5; in the 14 since that Sri Lanka match, he has taken 72, at a strike rate of 41.0. From that point of view, he got worse.
Just in passing, it may be indicative that Steyn and Morne Morkel were out injured before the Sri Lanka series, when Rabada effectively became the alpha male of the pace attack. It’s a pity. I suspect they may have had an authoritatively calming influence on him.