Ashes 2013-14: A sledge too far - is it time to declare an end to such hostilities following the departure of Jonathan Trott?

A guy threatening another guy with physical violence – I think it’s just not cricket, not the cricket I grew up loving

Steve Waugh, the former Australian cricket captain, called it the art of (causing) “mental disintegration”. More commonly, it’s known as sledging. And following the acrimonious end to the first Ashes Test, in Brisbane, which saw Australia crush England, there is fierce debate here about whether Australian players who baited their opponents overstepped the bounds of sportsmanship.

“For me, a guy threatening another guy with physical violence – I think it’s just not cricket, not the cricket I grew up loving,” says Peter FitzSimons, a sports columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, referring to the Australian captain Michael Clarke’s warning to the England fast bowler James Anderson to “get ready for a broken fucking arm”.

Earlier in the match, Australia’s David Warner lambasted England’s Jonathan Trott as “pretty poor” and “pretty weak”, and claimed England had “scared eyes” as they faced Mitchell Johnson’s fast bowling. Trott, who put in a lacklustre performance, abruptly left the Ashes series yesterday, blaming a long-standing stress-related illness.

There is no suggestion that Warner was aware of Trott’s fragile state; even so, his remarks – which were made at a press conference, contravening the unwritten rule that sledging is acceptable on the field, but not off – caused “a fair bit of unease”, according to insiders. Mr FitzSimons, who used to play rugby union for Australia, calls them “nasty”.

Others, though, dismiss such qualms, agreeing with Clarke – who was fined one-fifth of his match fee yesterday, after his aside to Anderson  was picked up by a stump microphone – that verbal sparring is “part and parcel of the game”. Even Alastair Cook conceded that “on the pitch, it’s pretty much a war… so there’s always going to be a few battles, a few words”.

Certainly, the atmosphere surrounding this Ashes contest is highly charged, with Australia desperate to win the series after losing the last three – and with lingering fury here about Stuart Broad’s failure to walk after edging a ball to slip in July at Trent Bridge.

Brisbane’s Courier-Mail has waged a campaign against Broad, with headlines such as “He’s so arrogant not even his own team likes him”. Rather than refer to him by name, it calls him “the 27-year-old English medium-pace bowler”. It cut him out of a front-page  photograph, leaving just an empty silhouette. The Courier-Mail’s editor, Christopher Dore, wrote that Broad’s “dastardly deception… set the tone for an English summer of outrageous misfortune for the hapless Australians”. But he was tickled to see the Englishman walk into a press conference with a copy of the paper. “In the vernacular from the stands, maybe he’s not such a smug Pommy dickhead after all.”

Malcolm Conn, a cricket writer for Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited papers, welcomed the sight of Anderson – whom he called “England’s worst sledger” and “a constant abuser of Australians” during past Ashes series – getting a taste of his own medicine.

The term “sledging” seems to have originated in Australia during the 1960s. During the 1970s, the cricket team captained by Ian Chappell was labelled the “Ugly Australians” because of their aggressive playing style and propensity for verbal abuse.

Some incidents are legendary. Shortly after being called a “fat bus conductor” by the Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad, the Australian fast bowler Merv Hughes dismissed Miandad, then ran past him, calling out: “Tickets, please!”

The English are no slouches in the sledging department. During an Ashes Test in the 1960s, Fred Trueman was fielding near the gate to the pavilion. As a new batsman entered the arena, he turned to shut the gate. Trueman told him: “Don’t bother, son, you won’t be out there long enough.”

That kind of good-natured banter, though, seems very different from the Australians’ behaviour in Brisbane in recent days. Richard Hinds, a News Limited sports columnist, attributes the extra friction partly to the fact that this Ashes series has – unusually – begun only a few months after the last one ended.

Jonathan Trott has left the Ashes series Jonathan Trott has left the Ashes series (PA)
That means “memories are still fresh, wounds are still  raw” from, for instance,  the Broad incident at Trent Bridge, Mr Hinds says, and  the player line-ups have  barely changed. “You’re putting the same dogs back into the same backyard.” He thinks Australia are indulging in “a bit of tit for tat… Guys like Anderson were pretty good in the lip themselves over in England; now the Australians are responding in kind, just like England did when it was on top.”

And it’s no longer a case of “wild colonials beating the gentlemen tourists of England”, Mr Hinds adds. “Nowadays you’ve just got two professional outfits going at each other very hard.”

There seems little prospect of manners improving when the second Test begins in Adelaide next week. Johnson, who relishes “a scrap”, has said he expects the tension “to continue through the series… You’re going to see a bit more of it.”

Mr FitzSimons says that since England’s success at the London Olympics, Wimbledon, the Ashes and the rugby, “there’s been renewed interest in beating England… It was pretty much blasé when we beat England seven or eight series in a row.”

He adds: “It’s obviously been good for cricket that England are back with it and have won three times in a row. But there’s a sense of ‘that’s enough now, let’s go back to situation normal, which is that we smack you’. And we seem to be going back to it.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride