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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat