Sledging is part and parcel of cricket. The game involves a mental aspect as much as practical skill, and when Australia and South Africa meet, things will no doubt pick up where they left off in Brisbane. By ANT SIMS.
Before the series between Australia and South Africa even started, a few choice words were being exchanged between the two sides. The verbal battled bubbled up again when the two sides took to the field on the first Test in Brisbane, and the final afternoon of the first Test was particularly heated. While no formal charge was laid against either side, the umpires stepped in a few times to have a word with the bowlers.
Michael Hussey, who scored an unbeaten 100 in that first Test, said that it was simply part of the game. Cricket is a battle of the mind as well as the body, and Hussey said that banter was all good and well – as long the boundaries were respected.
"It's part of the game. Once you get out in the middle and emotions start to rise, it's good for the game to see a bit of competitive spirit out there between the two teams," Hussey said.
"A lot of the players in the past have used it as a mental battle against batsmen, and it's probably worked in the past as well.
"Whether it works on these South African batsmen, I don't know. They've shown they've been a great team for a period of time now; they didn’t get to No. 1 in the world without enduring these sorts of things before. But once you get over that white line, competitive spirit between bat and ball starts, and there's always going to be things that are said, but as long as it doesn't go too far and players [don't] cross the line I think it's fine."
What exactly defines the line is up to the umpires and match referee to decide, but for Hashim Amla, attempts to unsettle the Proteas are simply amusing – especially after copping an earful during the first Test.
"I actually found it quite humorous. Obviously the guys were a bit pumped up thinking I had nicked the ball. I guess it is a bit funny when guys get emotional when there is no real need to," Amla said. "But it's part of the game. I found it quite funny and just enjoyed the moment. It was a nice patch of play for cricket."
Sledging has long formed part of cricket – from utterly vile retorts to some truly hilarious one-liners, having words with the opposition has always formed part of the game. Many words were exchanged during South Africa’s tour Down Under in 2008, and AB de Villiers reminded Australia that their tactics didn’t really work.
"They thought so in 2008 as well and it didn't really happen that way, so hopefully we can prove them wrong again," De Villiers said of the last time the Proteas visited Australia.
"There's always a bit of chat around. We're talking about two very good teams who want to win the game. You do whatever you can to get a few wickets when the pressure is on. Whatever you can do to get an edge over the opposition, you will do it."
One of the most intense sessions of play involved rookie James Pattinson having a full on go at South African skipper Graeme Smith. A few heated words were exchanged and it was Pattinson who came out on top, dismissing Smith in the end. The quick, however, copped some flak for his behaviour.
"A lot of people have spoken to me saying, 'You shouldn't sledge Smith; he's done so much for the game, he's the longest-serving captain'," News.com.au quoted Pattinson as saying.
"You think about that stuff and you really respect that about them, but once you get out there you want to be a competitor; you want to beat them. If that's firing up and saying a couple of words to those people I don't think it really matters who it is," he added.
Pattinson, who has played just six Tests for Australia, admitted that no love was lost between the two sides but that, despite the verbal onslaughts, respect for his competitors never waned.
"I really respect what they've done in cricket. They're fantastic role models and they've done so much for their country, but once you get out there you're competing against them and you want to try and beat them,” the 22-year-old said.
Things will be much the same when the two teams meet in Adelaide. South Africa hasn’t played there since 2001 – and they got hammered then, losing by 246 runs. Jacques Kallis is the only squad member who still remains from that team, but two of the last Tests played there have produced massive results, with Australia beating India by 298 runs in January of this year and England beating Australia by an innings and 71 runs in December 2010. Adelaide is undoubtedly a result wicket with only three draws there in the last 19 years, and the result there might very well define the series. DM
Photo: Australia's James Pattinson celebrates the dismissal of South Africa's Graeme Smith during the first test cricket match at the Gabba in Brisbane November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Aman Sharma