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.”

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence