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The ShortList guide to sledging

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Nothing divides opinion in cricket like sledging. Shane Warne once claimed, “If I can get a batsman out by saying something that affects his game, then why not?”, while professional Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott has said, “My view is there’s no place for it. If the bowlers can’t get batsmen out by fair means, why should they try something else?”

Whether you’re for or against the on-pitch exchanging of verbal blows, you can’t deny that it can be extremely funny. So, with the Ashes now tantalizingly close, we present ShortList’s official guide to sledging. For the sake of your own safety, we’d advise caution when using it in chains of The Walkabout.

THINK QUICKLY

“It’s better to be spontaneous,” says former England fast bowler Darren Gough. “Otherwise you get these bad sledgers who stare you down and then say something as they’re turning away. What does that do? Most of the Australian fast bowlers tend to be like that, not many of them say anything face to face.”

Current England captain Andrew Strauss agrees: “Bowlers always try to think up some new ones – it usually takes them about six months to come up with anything.”

BE FUNNY

For Gough’s former England ODI team-mate Ronnie Irani, the comedic quality of the quip is most important. “It’s got to have a humour side to it,” he says. “You’ve got to make people laugh or smile because it’s all about making them lose concentration so you can get them out. It’s not about getting one over on them from a verbal point of view, it’s about actually getting them out.”

“It helps if it’s humourous”, agrees Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, “and as long as it’s not vindictive, it’s OK”.

DON’T OVERSTEP THE MARK

“What I try to do is try to make them focus on something else and not about the game”, says ex-England glovesman Paul Nixon. “I try to get into their heads so they get cheesed off with me or angry with me. I’ll hit a nerve if I can but try not to get personal.”

Former umpire David Lloyd claims, “If it’s nasty and personal there’s no room for it – it’s very cheap and cowardly. But the majority of the stuff you can just have a laugh about. You’re better off saying nowt when you’re batting and getting them back when you’re fielding.”

“The idea of sledging was to distract the batsman”, says former England all-rounder Chris Cowdrey. “It wasn’t to be abusive and I see a lot of school and club stuff where players are just abusive to the opposition. There’s nothing funny about it and there’s nothing clever about it. They are not actually trying to put them off their game but they are just being aggressive because they think it’s clever. It’s childish really.”

PICK YOUR TARGETS CAREFULLY

“It’s all about the character and the individual,” says Ronnie Irani. “Some people are a bit more reclusive and don’t like it so you can go at them hard. If somebody came at me aggressively, swearing and being abusive, it made me play better and concentrate harder. I thought ‘I’ll show you. Don’t you talk to me like that.’ Generally, I wouldn’t answer anyone back because, as a batsman, you only get one chance.”

He continues: “Sometimes I felt I needed to fire myself up a bit and be aggressive – and that was before I’d even faced a ball. I remember doing it once when someone in the Pakistan team hurled abuse at me from the moment I’d come through the gate until I was at the crease. So I turned round and said ‘Who are you talking to, you haven’t got a run all series!’ That made me concentrate harder as I thought to myself ‘you can’t afford to get out here or you will really cop it.’ All that abuse kind of helped me.”

TOUGHEN UP

“If you’re going to get affected by sledging”, says Andrew Strauss, “then you probably shouldn’t be out there in the middle in the first place.”

England’s Steven Finn agrees. “It’s important you don’t get too emotional. It can cloud your thinking and if it’s too obvious, the batsman knows he’s winning.”

Ex-Zimbabwe international Eddo Brandes claims: “Some players are more susceptible to it. Players work out who will falter – it’s about establishing weaknesses. I heard a lot of tales from our top order batsmen. They said Steve Waugh was really subtle and clever from gully – McGrath and Warne were always at it. They would all make comments that had nothing to do with cricket but would get the batsmen thinking about other things.”

“I spent a winter playing in Australia after I left school”, says Stuart Broad, “and I got barraged because of my old man [Chris Broad] doing so well over there. That was a great learning experience, it toughened me up.”

‘Why Are You So Fat?’: The talkSPORT Book of Cricket’s Best Ever Sledges is out now

Main image: Getty

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