There have been a couple of incidents over the past few months that have rekindled the debate about sledging and its place in the game.
Dale Steyn and Michael Clarke had a go at one another in the recent triangular series in Zimbabwe. I’ve heard that the Proteas are still unhappy about a remark made by Clarke when the Australians last toured South Africa.
Meanwhile, in the Test series between England and India, much was made about the altercation between Jimmy Anderson and Ravi Jadeja. A lot was said and written in the wake of that incident, with more and more people asking if the authorities should come down harder on offenders. A few even suggested that sledging has no place in the game.
I think we need to be careful here. There has to be a balance. You don’t want players taking it too far on the field, but then you also don’t want to sanitise the game to the point where there is no aggression in the contest.
While I never got involved in sledging as a player, I did appreciate what the bowler and the fielders were trying to achieve. They were constantly looking to get under my skin, and often the worst thing you could do as a batsman was to respond verbally. After all, this is what the fielding side wanted.
But I did accept that it was part of the contest. When South Africa played Australia in 1970, a lot was said by the tourists on the field. It was all in aid of increasing the tension, and trying to get the batsman at the crease to lose his cool.
The Aussies had some hard and aggressive players, but then so did we. Denis Lindsay was an aggressive guy, as was Eddie Barlow, Mike Procter, and my brother, Peter. We gave as good as we got. It made for a great contest.
Indeed, it’s become a big part of Australia’s game, and they certainly owe some of their success to it. The great fast bowlers Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee were especially good at it, as were the Chappell brothers. In the 1990s, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne were but two who looked to unsettle the South Africans, and targeted Daryll Cullinan in particular. Cullinan wasn’t the kind of player to keep quiet, and perhaps that played into the Aussies’ hands.
There is a place for sledging in the game, as long as the chirps and comments are within reason. And as long as the umpires and officials continue to keep the players in check when they overstep the mark, there is no cause to stamp it out completely. Controlled aggression, as the great Australian sides have proved, can bring a team success.
Graeme Pollock played 23 Tests for South Africa, scoring 2256 runs at an average (60.97) that remains second only to Don Bradman’s. He was voted South Africa’s Player of the 20th century in 1999, and inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.
Due to a series of health problems that have impacted on his financial position, Pollock is now reaching out to fans in hope of some support. If you are able to contribute to his Trust in any way, please do not hesitate to call his agent Basil O’Hagan on 083 4124459 or make a deposit, however small, to the following Trust Fund.
Name of Account Holder: Rudolf Buys & Associates Trust
Name of Bank: Standard Bank
Account Number: 281 464 359
Branch: Fourways Crossing
Branch Code: 009 953
Type of Account: Trust Account
Ref: Mr G Pollock