James Anderson has got in trouble for his sledging. It's not new, but it is time for everyone who sledges to wind their collective necks in.
You see it at every level as a sign of playing hard. Jimmy might eff and jeff at batsmen, but even in my - relatively passive – club there are moments. Only this Saturday a player called a batsman a "****ing village idiot" for a transgression.
I'm all for playing hard, but swearing just is not classy. The heart of the battle in cricket is a bat, a ball and the men wielding them. None of these require shouting like a hormonal teenager.
You might argue that the sport is also played in the head.
To get under the skin of your opponent is to gain an advantage that is born of greater mental strength. That's true, but players are capable of keeping their head at a stream of abuse because it's toothless.
A bouncer at the throat does 10 times more mental damage than calling someone a name. The latter can be ignored, the former cannot.
That's why sledging is not playing hard, it's playing weak.
Simply from a practical viewpoint, there are very few moments where sledging is effective.
Forget sledging, try bareknuckle fighting
So, let's assume you want to be more of a gentleman.
I'm not talking about a gentleman in the mould of foppish Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy. I mean a gentleman more like a Victorian bareknuckle fighter: Battle hardened, no quarter given or asked and total respect for both his opponent and the nobility of the task.
By all means, engage in banter. Take it as far as clever mind games that erode confidence. Fight hard. Use every trick in the book.
Do this safe in the knowledge that sledging your opponent is a sign of frustration. You are not getting what you want so you shout instead. Think about it in reverse: If the bowler swears at you when you are batting then you have just got away with something.
In a perfect world we would all know this and sledging would never happen. Sadly, some people need a reminder, and that's when the umpires, captains and peers in the team need to take help miscreants take the higher road.
Everyone in cricket has the ability to keep sledging out of the game. So, let's do it. It's not about a return to mythical golden days where we all had a jolly nice time. It's just impractical.
Sledging at any level is pointless and weak. There are much better ways to show toughness that keep the spirit of the game intact.
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