With the number of players being penalised for the altercation between Indian and Australian players during the course of the two Tests so far, the questions of sledging, gamesmanship and mind games have begun again. Should there be a crackdown on the same? Should players be a bit more restrained in their talk? Must the umpires take a more proactive step to ensure players do not go overboard. In the wake of Philip Hughes' death, this series was expected to be a quieter one in terms of word of mouth stunts. That clearly hasn't been the case so far. And, it does not look like things will change over the course of the next two Tests.
Both the Indian and Australian camps have defended the volatile atmosphere out in the middle, claiming the high-pressure situation leads to such tussles. It is a clear indication of what to expect from the two sides in the coming days. What the players must be aware of is where to draw the line. For, this is where situations go out of hand more often than not. The spat between Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan which ended up with a reference to the latter's wife was certainly not acceptable, nor was Shikhar Dhawan mocking an injured Shane Watson during a Test match, which made for terrible viewing, and showed Dhawan in very poor light.
On the contrary, when teams have a go at each other, it does make for intriguing viewing. A few harsh words exchanged here and there are alright unless they are personal. No one can forget the Zinedine Zidane incident during the 2006 football World Cup final. It ruined a big match as the legend could not tolerate some things being said about his background. This is where players should be extremely careful. Cheeky should be more like it for sledging, like what Steve Waugh said to Herschelle Gibbs during their Super Six encounter in the 1999 World Cup, or like how Javed Miandad mocked Kiran More in 1992.
More importantly, it is essential that players back the smart talk with performances. In the current series only Australia have been doing so thus far although players from both sides have been found guilty of breaching the code of conduct set up by the ICC. As for the Indians, the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Varun Aaron have had a go at the Aussies, but it has only woken up the hosts from slumber. Not only have they given it back to the Indians through their harsh talk, but have also outdone the Indians in all the other departments of the game. And, India have had no answer to the same.
Whether or not a person sledges the opposition is very much a personal choice. It depends on the individual and his present mindset in a big way. It is thus difficult to stop the gamesmanship. In fact, if it is taken out if the game completely, the sport will be poorer. But, everyone involved in the game must ensure that the situation doesn't go out of hand, as it happened in England during the Jadeja-Anderson spat. While one can understand that there is a lot at stake for the players, it must also be remembered that millions are watching the coverage on TV and in the stands. For a lot of youngsters, talented cricketers are role models. Something the players ought to keep in mind.
--By A Cricket Analyst