WHO DREW THE @#$%ING LINE ?
Sledging is a waste of time. Trust me, I know
Could you give us a hand here please? Poor old Mr Squiggle needs a refill for his pencil nose. He has been drawing so many lines these past few weeks that today he can’t even muster a full stop.
Lines here, lines there. It was so much easier when Mr Squiggle just had to turn some kid’s scrawl into an elephant playing the bongos. Whatever.
Now that Mr Squiggle has been co-opted by sport as the official line demarcation marionette there are new lines for cricket, tennis, rugby league, the NRL Broncos. And it’s not just like a line a day. The sports keep wanting to change their boundaries almost by the hour.
Take the South African and Australian cricket teams. Quinton de Kock and David Warner and officials from both teams have been replacing so many lines so many times this past week Mr Squiggle came down with a serious case of proboscis fatigue.
Both Warner and de Kock clearly didn’t see a line, knew about a line, stayed behind a line thus had any idea that a line was to their rear and not in front of them. So comprehensively was the line ignored both players brought themselves and the game of cricket into disrepute. That is inarguable. That both players received penalties so soft that they are playing in the second Test underlines how the real authority in cricket now rests with the players and not the ICC or national cricket boards.
The vision we have seen of both teams as they left the ground for the tea break in last week’s first Test against South Africa is both embarrassing and damaging. But the actions of the players were inevitable.
Warner and de Kock were lucky to receive fines and demerit points insufficient to keep them from playing in the second fracas which has begun in Port Elizabeth. With that wonderful arrogance of the “they can’t do that to us” variety, de Kock appealed his penalty and lost. He was meant have made some despicable remarks to Warner about his wife.
Here is the problem. Once you decide that sledging is acceptable and a genuine tool of the cricketing trade then the line of what is tolerable is redrawn to suit the circumstances. Overstep it on Monday and Mr Squiggle has a new one for you Tuesday, just a few metres further on. Both Australia and South Africa maintained no line had been crossed but the vision showed it had been triple jumped.
Sledging is a limited tactic. In fact a waste of time if the opponent can ignore or respond in kind and remain unruffled. So you search for a sharper and sharper barb that will pierce the opponent’s concentration and force him from the calm and controlled mental space he had so carefully manicured for the previous umpteen overs.
In South Africa there is no line now, just a rage. An intent to provoke. In the stairwell at Durban it was de Kock who first swung, verbally at least with what The Weekend Australian cricket writer, Peter Lalor, has described as a disgusting comment.
Warner, who had been sledging everybody and anything within a 20km radius of the centre wicket, lacked the wit and presence to respond effectively so showed his sledging arsenal had been reduced to looking for physical resolution. For a man who had barely moments before called de Kock a “f...ing sook”, Warner had been completely exposed and disarmed.
This is not theory. Bowling for Prahran in Victorian District cricket when I could bowl off a long run and, better still, remember how many paces were required to measure it, I sledged past the point of insanity.
Once, bowling to an opening batsman who was unmoved by my verbal battering he was, more importantly, unmoved by anything I was able to hurl at him with the ball. As this bowler-batsman battle within a match continued to build like a fire from twigs to logs any line supposedly held in sacred trust had sizzled to ashes.
When the batsman sniggered at another harmless bouncer I had run out of tricks. So, trapped in Warner’s same moment of uselessness and embarrassment, I walked down the pitch and chested the batsman through his stumps. By any judgment it was a shameful action and brought two reports — physical contact and persistent sledging — and, of course, suspension. I had shown no respect to my opponent or to cricket itself. None, either, to my parents and the people who had spent their time to coach me. I played cricket for half a season more at a different club but never knew why. I was but a ghost, killed off in a moment where the boundaries of decency no longer registered.
Former Australian Test skipper Ian Chappell, as tough a cricketer to have played the game, was right this week. He said on radio:
“I’m hearing it (sledging) is part of the game — that’s rubbish, it’s not part of the game. He (Warner) is the one who’s going to get into trouble but what about the people who are encouraging him to do it? You go back a few years, he said he was encouraged by the captain and by the coach to do it.
“Then he decided he’d had enough of that, he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t want to be the attack dog, now for some reason or other he’s back as the attack dog.
“I’ve heard James Sutherland say it’s part of the game, he appoints the coach, it’s just ridiculous that it’s allowed to go on.
“The more you allow players to talk on the field the more likelihood there is something personal will be said.”
Everybody knows where the line is and for what it stands. Common sense, good manners and respect. To suggest that comments about family cross the line is to arbitrarily pick a fight. Much worse can be said about your teammate, a brother-in-arms, but if you are not a blood relative it is considered a fair cop. Such nonsense. It is why Warner has garnered little sympathy. His defence on Thursday that he was defending his family’s honour was childish, schoolboy logic. He said he became emotional. Just what does he think all his sledging is stirring in his opponents? Like it did de Kock.
Mr Squiggle needs a new nose or two because it is too easy to push the line this way and that so as to suit your defence. The Australians are making dills of themselves. It is uncomfortable to watch them and Warner has been made to look a fool.
Trust me, I know.