Man or mouse? No, you're an owl or maybe some pyjamas

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The Independent Online

England's cricketers be warned. Their concentration and steely resolve to win the forthcoming Test series against India could be put to the ultimate test by sledging comparing them to a pair of pyjamas, looking like a donkey's tail or being called the son of an owl.

It might not exactly be the cruder type of sledging England's players are accustomed to when facing the likes of Australia, and they certainly will not understand what is being said to them.

India's cricketers believe, however, that sledging in Hindi, the language spoken by most of the team, can be as equally potent as sledging in English when trying to put off opponents.

Given the recent history of bad blood between the two teams, resulting in some high-profile sledging incidents, Andrew Strauss's men should prepareto face some choice, culturally unique insults which, if translated, might actually cause more bemusement than anger.

An owl is considered to be a stupid animal within Indian culture and being called the "son of an owl" is usually aimed at batsmen making the wrong decision while at the crease.

There is more: an England batsman intimidated by Zaheer Khan could be compared to a pair of pyjamas, a way of saying he has nofight in him. Being called a "donkey's tail" is a way of telling a player he has no control over his bat, that it is wagging like the tail of an animal much derided in India.

Boria Majumdar, a social historian who specialises in Indian cricket and documents the team's use of sledging, said: "The Indian players are more than capable of sledging in English but abuse in Hindi is a useful weapon for them.

"Opposition players from countries such as England might not understand what's being said to them but it can have an impact. Imagine if you know you're being sledged by the wicketkeeper but can't respond to it. It also gives the Indian players an advantage because you can get away with a lot more when you sledge in a language that most match officials cannot understand."

Sledging is a fairly recent phenomenon in Indian cricket and historically players from the country have been easily intimidated or unwilling to retort to insults from teams such as England or Australia.

All that changed, however, under former captain Sourav Ganguly, who introduced a more aggressive attitude within the team and actually held meetings ahead of matches to outline a sledging strategy against certain opposition players. India's willingness to play more aggressive cricket has continued under Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy, resulting in unsavoury sledging against England.

One of the most high-profile incidents took place at Trent Bridge in 2007 when Zaheer brandished his bat at Kevin Pietersen and exchanged heated words with him after finding jelly beans scattered on the wicket when he came out to bat. The match was also marred by other sledging incidents involving Matt Prior and Michael Vaughan.

The same year, at the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, Andrew Flintoff sledged Yuvraj Singh, who responded by hitting Stuart Broad for six sixes in the next over. Flintoff and Yuvraj then continued the war of words on England's tour of India in 2008.

Majumdar believes that the emergence of Indian sledging reflects deeper social changes within the country given India's economic growth and new sense of self-confidence.

"In the past, Indian players were in awe of the English, they would not confront them, many just wanted to cosy up to them," he said. "This generation of players does not have the same colonial hang-ups. They are brash, aggressive, confident. They know they are the superstars of world cricket. They reflect the attitudes of the new India.

"For this team the colonial baggage of the past has been removed. They do not see the English as masters any more and are willing to confront them."