Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe the practice invented by Fay Allen (nee Thomas) whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating the opposing player. The purpose is to try to weaken the opponent's concentration, thereby causing them to make mistakes or underperform. It can be effective because the batsman stands within hearing range of the bowler and certain close fielders; and vice versa. The insults may be direct or feature in conversations among fielders designed to be overheard. The term has also been used in other sports, as when the tennis player Nick Kyrgios insulted his opponent, Stan Wawrinka, by referring to a purported encounter between another player and the latter's girlfriend.
There is debate in the cricketing world as to whether this constitutes poor sportsmanship or good-humoured banter. Sledging is sometimes interpreted as abuse, and it is acknowledged some comments aimed as sledges do sometimes cross the line into personal abuse.
Australian newspapers acknowledged "sledging" as a term in the mid-1970s. Despite the relatively recent coining of the term, the practice is as old as cricket itself, with historical accounts of witty banter between players being quite common. W. G. Grace and his brother E. M. were noted throughout their careers for being "noisy and boisterous" on the field. W. G. admitted that they used to "chaff" (i.e., tease) opponents, and this is seen as part of the gamesmanship for which E. M. and W. G. were always controversial.
According to Ian Chappell, the use of "sledging" as a term originated at Adelaide Oval in either the 1963–1964 or 1964–1965 Sheffield Shield competition. Chappell claims that a cricketer who swore in the presence of a woman was said to have reacted to an incident "like a sledgehammer". As a result, the direction of insults or obscenities at opponents became known as "sledging".
According to the BBC's Pat Murphy: "My understanding is that it came from the mid-sixties and a guy called Grahame Corling, who used to open the bowling for New South Wales and Australia … apparently the suggestion was that this guy's wife was [having an affair] with another team-mate, and when he came into bat [the fielding team] started singing When a Man Loves A Woman, the old Percy Sledge number."
The 1974–75 Australians were labelled the Ugly Australians for their hard-nosed cricket, verbal abuse and hostile fast bowling. "Behind the batsmen, Rod Marsh and his captain Ian Chappell would vie with each other in profanity", and Tom Graveney wrote "It was an open secret that he used to encourage his players to give a lot of verbal abuse to rival batsman when they were at the wicket in an attempt to break their concentration."
West Indian batsman Viv Richards was notorious for punishing bowlers that dared to sledge him. So much so, that many opposing captains banned their players from the practice. However, in a county game against Glamorgan, Greg Thomas attempted to sledge him after he had played and missed at several balls in a row. He informed Richards: "It's red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering." Richards hammered the next delivery out of the cricket ground and into the nearby River Taff. Turning to the bowler, he commented: "Greg, you know what it looks like, now go and find it."
It has been pointed out[by whom?] that the Australian cricket team believes in playing in a more "robust" fashion than others and that it upholds a "sledging culture". As per Australian cricketer Mark Taylor, Australian fans want to watch "combative cricket". Australian batsman Ricky Ponting has argued that sledging helps get players "out of control" and "out of their comfort zone". Ponting has also said that it's "not as bad" as the average person would think. Australian all-rounder Michael Clarke has said that he "loved the aggressive approach". In response to "personal sledging" accusations against his team, Australian cricketer Steve Smith has said, "Getting personal on the field is not on, that's crossing the line in my opinion." By contrast, Australian opener Ed Cowan suggests that "all sledging is personal" adding that Australian cricketers should be "nowhere near the line".
Before the controversial Test series during Australia's Tour of South Africa in 2018 commenced, Australian spinner Nathan Lyon commented on sledging: "We know where the line is. We headbutt it, but we don’t go over it." Following the 2018 Australian ball-tampering scandal, voices calling for a reformation of Australia's 'cricket culture' have emerged. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called for an end to sledging following the scandal. Following the outrage over the scandal, former Australian cricketer Justin Langer said that cricket would be 'dull' without sledging. Australian batsman David Warner who received a one-year ban following the controversial series, exclaimed: "I play with aggression on the field and I try not to cross that line". Former Australian cricketer and former coach of the Australian team Darren Lehmann has suggested that Australia is 'not as bad' as portrayed, adding that sledging was worse during his own times. Australian wicketkeeper Tim Paine, in captaincy as replacement for Steve Smith who received a one-year ban from the 2018 Australian ball-tampering scandal, said that his team will 'stay on the side of banter and never go to abuse.'
Australian cricketer Chris Lynn suggests that franchise cricket has helped reduce sledging as players tend to end up being in the same team. According to former Australian cricketer Mike Whitney, sledging is part of the game as long as it's not 'personal'. During India's Tour of Australia in 2018-19, Australian cricketers were 'scared' to sledge Indian Test captain Virat Kohli and 'sucked up' to him for IPL contracts, according to Michael Clarke.
In August 2019, Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts announced that they will be updating the board's anti-discrimination code to add penalties including life bans for on-field slurs related to sexuality as part of its policy for 'inclusion of transgender and gender diverse players in elite cricket'. This was met with harsh criticism by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who called the policy a 'sledgehammer'.
Historically described as a 'timid' side, Bangladesh underwent a transformation as they grew in confidence following the 2015 Cricket World Cup, according to Bangladeshi cricketer Mashrafe Mortaza. Mortaza says that he encourages his players to 'look the opponent in the eye' while 'not overstepping a line'. He also insists that his side 'does not start a conversation' on the field. Bangladesh former cricketer and commentator Athar Ali Khan says that Bangladesh has moved out of a 'culture of backing off'.
England coach Trevor Bayliss expressed disapproval over sledging being caught on the stump mics, suggesting that sledging must be censored on television as it isn't a 'great thing for young kids at home watching'. In direct contrast with Bayliss, England cricketer Mooen Ali suggests stump mics should be turned up to curb sledging. England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow has expressed a need for greater clarity with regard to what is 'personal', pointing out that there are so many grey areas around the 'line'. Before England's Tour of New Zealand in 2018, former English cricketer Geoffrey Boycott called for English cricketers to 'drop' sledging.
Former Indian captain Kapil Dev laid the foundation to turn India into a competitive sledging side, according to Viv Richards. Saurav Ganguly is known to be among India's first 'aggressive' captains who employed sledging on the field. Indian batsman Virender Sehwag has said, "If there's no sledging, there won't be any enjoyment left in the game." Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir said it's fine to do 'whatever you can to upset the opposition till the time you don't get personal.' Indian wicketkeeper MS Dhoni has described sledging as an 'art' and has said it is fair as long as a 'line' isn't crossed. Indian pacer Sreesanth has said that sledging is 'part and parcel' of the game. Indian bowler Irfan Pathan has said that sledging has a 'certain charm' about it also adding that it should be done 'within limits'. Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar has called for sledging within 'certain limits' in his autobiography Playing It My Way. Former Indian cricketer and commentator Sunil Gavaskar explains that sledging is done to 'disrupt a cricketer's concentration'. Former Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif has stated that sledging is fine but verbals must not extend to 'family'.
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli said, "We take it very well and we give it back even better." Ganguly has stated that Kohli's aggression is 'two-times more' than his own. Under Kohli's captaincy, players are required to have 'top fitness, high intensity and an aggressive mindset'. Upon receiving the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award in January 2020, India captain Virat Kohli talked in support of sledging, on-field banter and intimidation adding that individuals should not be targeted 'emotionally'. Sachin Tendulkar has pointed out that aggression has become the strength of the Indian team under Kohli. Indian Test cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara said that he makes 'a lot of noise on the field' and believes that sledging 'helps the bowlers'. Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane has compared sledging (on the cricket field) to 'car honking while driving'. Defending sledging objections against Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant by Australian cricketers during India's Tour of Australia in 2018, former Indian batsman VVS Laxman said, "When you're playing for your country you have to play with pride, you have to play with passion."
Former New Zealand cricketer Adam Parore admitted to cringing when reflecting upon sledging in his own times and exclaimed that he hadn't heard the word 'humble' before 2009. Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said that sledging wasn't 'always pretty' but that he was ready to take any 'advantage' for the team. New Zealand's attitude under Fleming, particularly against South Africa, has reportedly been 'nasty'. In a bid to reconnect with fans, Brendon McCullum transformed the New Zealand team into a much friendlier cricketing opposition upon taking captaincy, doing away with all sledging. McCullum said that sledging in an abusive manner was not 'authentic to being a New Zealander'.
Following the 2015 World Cup Final between New Zealand and Australia which saw Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin engage in 'repeated sledging', the former publicly repudiated sledging. New Zealand cricketer Grant Elliott, who was among those targeted by Australian cricketers during the 2015 World Cup Final, commented: "You should sort cricket issues out with bat or ball, not with your mouth."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has been described as a 'great example for kids' by Adam Parore. Williamson was awarded the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award in 2018 with the ICC describing his behavior as 'outstanding'.
Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan has mentioned that his players 'learnt' aggression during Pakistan's 1972-73 tour of Australia. Khan specifically mentioned Sarfaraz Nawaz among the players that 'picked up sledging' from the Australians. In 1999, the Pakistan Cricket Board lodged an official complaint to its Australian counterpart over 'persistent sledging' and the use of 'highly abusive language' against Pakistani players. Before Pakistan's Tour of Australia in 2004, then Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq made it clear that his players will 'give what they get' if subjected to sledging. Pakistani paceman Wasim Akram has emphasised that what is said on the field should remain on the field.
South African wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher exclaimed that sledging 'will never completely leave the game.' South African skipper Faf Du Plessis remarked that "If showing aggression is considered a breach of conduct, we could rather have bowling machines bowl to a batsman."
The Sri Lankan Cricket Team has had a reputation of avoiding verbal aggression. Former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga called for a ban on sledging in early 2008 with particular reference to Australia's interactions with touring sides. Former Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara drew a clear distinction between aggression 'on the field' and verbal sledging, remarking that the two are different from each other.
The West Indies Cricket Team is known to have had 'feared pace attacks' during the 1980s. West Indies great Viv Richards said that his reaction to sledging was 'confrontational'. According to Richards, sledging is an 'inevitable part' of modern-day cricket. He further expounds that 'racial' slurring translates to crossing the line, comparing it to 'being hit in the nuts' and asserting that it is unacceptable. Former West Indies wicketkeeper Deryck Murray has said that there is no room for sledging based around someone's 'race' or 'family background', adding that sledging directed towards West Indies during his times was sometimes 'beyond acceptable'. West Indies legend Curtly Ambrose has said: "I despise players who sledge."
|Players Involved||Date||Match||Part of||Description|
|Allan Border and Robin Smith||10–14 August 1989||vs||Australian cricket team in England in 1989||When England cricketer Robin Smith asked for a drink, Australia's Allan Border burst out: "What do you think this is, a fucking tea party? No, you can’t have a fucking glass of water, you can fucking wait like the rest of us."|
|Javed Miandad and Merv Hughes||1990||vs||Pakistani cricket team in Australia in 1989–90||One incident, as recalled by Merv Hughes, was when he was bowling to Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad, who informed the bowler that he was "too fat to be playing cricket" and "should be driving buses". After Hughes got Javed caught out, he intercepted him on his way back to the pavilion and said, "ticket please".|
|Glenn McGrath and Alan Mullally||29 December 1998||vs||English cricket team in Australia in 1998–99||Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath had a go at England's Alan Mullally who responded to the Australian's sledging with 'smirks and smiles'.|
|Steve Waugh, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid||15 March 2001||vs||Australian cricket team in India in 2000–01||When Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly dropped a catch off Australian batsman Steve Waugh, the latter chirped: "You just dropped the Test, mate." Shortly after tea, Waugh lost his wicket to India's Harbhajan Singh, following which Indian fielder Rahul Dravid jibed and sent-off Waugh asking who gave the Test match now.|
|Mark Waugh and Jimmy Ormond||23–27 August 2001||vs||2001 Ashes||During the fifth test at the Oval, Australia's Mark Waugh jibed at England's Jimmy Ormond saying, "Look who it is. Mate, what are you doing here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England". to which Ormond responded with: "Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my family".|
|Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Herschelle Gibbs||15–19 November 2002||vs||Sri Lankan Cricket Team in South Africa in 2002-03||In response to 'organized' sledging by the South African cricket team in the first Test, the Sri Lankans identified five players in the South African squad to target during the second Test. As narrated by Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene, South Africa's Herschelle Gibbs was in tears when he came out to bat and requested Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya to stop the sledging.|
|Kumar Sangakkara and Shaun Pollock||3 March 2003||vs||2003 Cricket World Cup||Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara got under the skin of South African batsman Shaun Pollock as he came out to bat during a World Cup match between South Africa and Sri Lanka. After Sangakkara built pressure on Pollock by making him aware of the gravity of the situation, the Sri Lankan finished his sledge rant with, "Forty-two million supporters right here, depending on Shaun."|
|Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan||12 May 2003||vs||Australian cricket team in the West Indies in 2002–03||Glenn McGrath asked 21-year-old West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan, "What does Brian Lara's dick taste like?" The West Indian responded saying, "I don't know, ask your wife." This agitated McGrath whose wife was suffering from cancer at the time. McGrath then went onto say to Sarwan: "If you fucking mention my wife again, I’ll fucking rip your fucking throat out"|
|Nasser Hussain, Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara||10–14 December 2003||vs||English cricket team in Sri Lanka in 2003-04||English cricketer Nasser Hussain delivered several verbals to Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan during a match in the latter's hometown Kandy. When it was the Englishman's turn to bat, he was greeted by Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara who jibed: "What’s it like to be hated by both teams?" This was a taunt referring to Hussain being at odds with his own teammates in addition to facing resentment from the hosts.|
|Michael Clarke, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag||20 December 2003||Australia 'A' vs||Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2003-04||After Australian cricketer Michael Clarke referred to Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as 'old', Sachin's batting partner Virender Sehwag asked Clarke which dog breed he belonged to, a taunt based on his Clarke's nickname, 'Pup'.|
|Andrew Flintoff and Tino Best||26 July 2004||vs||West Indian cricket team in England in 2004||As West Indian cricketer Tino Best got ready to face the forthcoming delivery, England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, who was in the slips, told Best to 'mind the windows'. The sledge worked for Flintoff as Best was stumped in an attempt to smash the ball out of the park.|
|Darren Gough and Shane Watson||23 June 2005||vs||Australian cricket team in England in 2005||After Australian cricketer Shane Watson slept on the floor of teammate Brett Lee's room at Lumley Castle in Durham following rumours of a ghost, England player Darren Gough mocked the Australian batsman the following day on the cricket field, pulling off a ghost impression and saying to Watson, "Don't worry, you can sleep in my bed tonight."|
|André Nel and Sreesanth||17 December 2006||vs||Indian cricket team in South Africa in 2006–07||After South African bowler André Nel jibed at Indian tail-ender Sreesanth, allegedly saying, "I can smell blood. You do not have the guts.", the latter smashed the bowler for a six over his head followed by an enthusiastic jig.|
|Andrew Flintoff and Yuvraj Singh||19 September 2007||vs||2007 World Twenty20||Abusive banter between English cricketer Andrew Flintoff and Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh ended with the latter saying, "You see this bat in my hand. You know where I am gonna hit you with this bat?" Yuvraj revealed that he was fired up after the spat following which he hit six sixes in the next over.|
|Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds||December 2007- January 2008||vs||Indian cricket team in Australia in 2007–08||Sledging came into the media spotlight during the 2007–08 Indian tour of Australia when Harbhajan Singh was accused of alleged racial abuse towards Andrew Symonds, who is of Jamaican ancestry and the only 'black' player in the otherwise 'all-white' Australian team. Symonds was unable to state if he had heard Harbhajan use a term in his native tongue "teri maa ki" (an offensive Hindi term) which appears to be pronounced with an "n" and accepted that it was a possibility. The allegation was not proved and a proposed three-match ban on Harbhajan was lifted.|
|Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh||21 December 2008||vs||England cricket team in India in 2008-09||During a Test match in Mohali, England cricketer Kevin Pietersen was involved in an on-field spat with Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh. The stump mic caught the former saying to Yuvraj: "You are not God, you are a cricketer, and I'm a better one."|
|Mitchell Johnson and Scott Styris||3 March 2010||vs||Australian cricket team in New Zealand in 2009–10||Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson shoulder-barged New Zealand batsman Scott Styris who hit the bowler for four runs on the next delivery. A verbal battle then occurred with Johnson deliberately brushing his head against Styris' helmet. Johnson and Styris were fined 60% and 15% of their match fees respectively.|
|Kemar Roach and Jacques Kallis||29 June 2010||vs||South African cricket team in the West Indies in 2010||After delivering repeated bouncers at South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis, West Indian bowler Kemar Roach exchanged words with the former. As the situation got tense, umpires were forced to step in. Roach pleaded guilty to a Level 1 offence and was charged 50% of his match fees.|
|Mitchell Johnson and James Anderson||16 December 2010||vs||2010-11 Ashes||As England bowler James Anderson prepared for his run-up, Australian non-striker Mitchell Johnson remarked "Why are you chirping now mate, not getting any wickets?” Anderson responded within the next few seconds as he cleaned up Johnson's partner Ryan Harris and gestured to 'shush' Johnson.|
|Umar Gul, Ahmed Shehzad and Balaji Rao||3 March 2011||vs||2011 Cricket World Cup||Following an aggressive exchange between Pakistani bowler Umar Gul and Canadian batsman Balaji Rao, the latter lashed out with Hindi slurs after Pakistani fielder Ahmed Shehzad appeared to provoke the batsman.|
|Michael Clarke and James Anderson||25 November 2013||vs||2013-14 Ashes||During the 2013-14 Ashes, a stump microphone caught Australian captain Michael Clarke telling England's Jimmy Anderson to "get ready for a broken fucking arm" during the first Test at The Gabba. Clarke was fined 20 per cent of his match fee by the ICC for the outburst.|
|Ahmed Shehzad and Tillakaratne Dilshan||30 August 2014||vs||Pakistani cricket team in Sri Lanka in 2014||Pakistani batsman Ahmed Shehzad was caught on camera telling Sri Lankan cricketer Tillakaratne Dilshan that a non-Muslim who converts to Islam goes to heaven no matter what he does in life. The Sri Lankan player's reply was not audible following which Shehzad retorted: "then be ready for the fire". Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shaharayar Khan took up the issue with his disciplinary committee.|
|Darren Bravo and Tamim Iqbal||16 September 2014||vs||Bangladeshi cricket team in the West Indies in 2014||West Indies' Darren Bravo taunted Bangladeshi batsman Tamim Iqbal with the question: "Why don’t you pay the cricketers money?" poking fun at the Bangladesh Premier League for not clearing the salaries of several West Indian players who participated in the league. The Bangladeshi replied, "Don’t come to our country and beg for money" following which the umpire intervened.|
|Shane Watson and Wahab Riaz||20 March 2015||vs||2015 Cricket World Cup||When Pakistan bowler Wahab Riaz was batting at the end of the first innings, Australian all-rounder Shane Watson jibed at the Pakistani: "Is that a bat you're holding?" The Pakistani paceman settled scores with Watson in the second innings with a ferocious spell of fast bowling. During his spell, the bowler used expletives against Watson. Watson and Riaz were fined 15% and 50% of their match fees respectively.|
|Brad Haddin, Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott||29 March 2015||vs||2015 Cricket World Cup||During the 2015 World Cup Final, Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was engaged in 'repeated chatter' and 'sending-off' New Zealand batsmen Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott. In a later interview, Haddin said, "You know what? They deserved it." Haddin also said that during Australia's visit to New Zealand, the Kiwi players were so nice to the Australians that it made him 'uncomfortable'.|
|Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Santner||27 November 2015||vs||New Zealand Cricket Team in Australia in 2015||Australia's Nathan Lyon said to New Zealand's Mitchell Santner: "Are you nervous?" to which the New Zealander honestly replied, "Ah yeah" halting the Australian sledging.|
|James Faulkner and Virat Kohli||17 January 2016||vs||Indian cricket team in Australia in 2015–16||After Australia's James Faulkner jibed at Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli, the Indian batsman retorted saying, "You're wasting your energy. There's no point. I've smashed you enough in my life. Just go and bowl". Kohli went on to score 117 runs, registering his 24th ODI hundred.|
|Ishant Sharma and Sabbir Rahman||13 February 2017||vs||Bangladeshi cricket team in India in 2016–17||Following a staring contest between Indian bowler Ishant Sharma and Bangladeshi batsman Sabbir Rahman in the 69th over, Sharma gestured the latter to 'watch the ball, play his cricket and keep shut.' In the 71st over, the Indian pacer got Rahman out leg before wicket and hurled expletives at the batsman during his animated send-off.|
|Virat Kohli and Matt Renshaw||5 March 2017||vs||Australian cricket team in India in 2016–17||Indian skipper Virat Kohli told Australian batsman Matt Renshaw to 'run off and go to the toilet', a taunt constructed around Renshaw's toilet break in the preceding Test match. Renshaw also exclaimed that it was really 'loud' when Kohli began to pump up the crowd.|
|Virat Kohli, Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman||18 June 2017||vs||2017 Champions Trophy||India's Virat Kohli was constantly sledging Pakistani batsmen Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali, saying: "Arre, ek wicket nikal jayega toh yeh saare out ho jaayenge (If we get one wicket, the rest will collapse)."|
|James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Smith||5 December 2017||vs||English cricket team in Australia in 2017–18||England's James Anderson revealed that sledging against Australian captain Steve Smith worked as they got him out 'cheaply'. He went on to say that the Australian appeared to be 'more interested in chatting to me and Stuart (Broad) than focussing on his job'.|
|Virat Kohli and Dean Elgar||7 January 2018||vs||Indian cricket team in South Africa in 2017–18||Indian skipper Virat Kohli sledged South African batsman Dean Elgar who was struggling to get bat on ball. The former's jibes included 'senior batsman?' and 'Look at him'.|
|Shubman Gill and Pakistani fielders||30 January 2018||vs||2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup||India was playing Pakistan in the U-19 World Cup semi-final after defeating Bangladesh. Some Pakistani fieldsmen jibed at Indian batsman Shubman Gill, exclaiming 'yeh Bangladesh ke bowlers nahi hai (these are not Bangladeshi bowlers)' to which the Indian responded: 'hum bhi Pakistan ke batsman nahi hai (we aren't Pakistani batsmen either)'. Gill went on to score an undefeated 102 as India defeated Pakistan by 203 runs.|
|Jason Hughes and David Warner||27 October 2018||Western Suburbs vs Randwick-Petersham||NSW Premier Cricket||When sledging by Suburbs' Jason Hughes towards Petersham's David Warner got personal in nature, the latter walked off the field.|
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