They say that cricket is a gentleman’s game but that word is an extremely subjective term which offers a kaleidoscopic view to the eye of the beholder who is willing to look at it from various angles, absolving the perpetrator at times and upholding his crime in others. That is the beauty of this game.
We will look at five idols of the sport who always have upheld the spirit of the game in its truest sense, however, even Gods slip and they are just mortals in flesh and bone. One instance of sledging from the extraordinary league of gentlemen is exactly what we will show you.
- Sachin Tendulkar
The Indian Master Blaster never really seemed like the lot who would dare to sledge. In fact, Saurav Ganguly once stated, “It was very hard with that team because we had too many gentlemen. If you ask Rahul Dravid to do that, he’ll come back and say ‘No no no that’s not the right way to play.’ You ask VVS Laxman to do that, he’ll say ‘I’m concentrating on my batting.’ And if you tell Sachin to do it, he will stand at mid-on and tell the mid-wicket fielder to sledge Steve Waugh, and himself not do it.”
Trying to trace one such incident where Sachin initiated it was not just difficult but it was nothing short of impossible. However, the Little Master did commit to this umbrage of getting into his opponent’s head once and that too was against the mighty Glenn McGrath.
It was the Champions Trophy encounter in 2000 where India was locked with Australia in a crucial battle and Sachin and Ganguly opened the innings for India.
This is that solitary black swan moment when Tendulkar wanted to sledge Pidge and did it successfully. His opening words to McGrath were, “Today I will hit you out of the ground.”
These fired-up the Australian fast bowler quite a bit and he peppered his deliveries way adrift of proper line and length and Tendulkar unleashed a relentless onslaught on McGrath.
What started with a fortunate cut over the third man for a six soon turned into a tornado as he danced down the pitch to hammer a gigantic maximum against Glenn. He kept on trading McGrath in boundaries and took India off to a flyer before finally falling prey to Brett Lee. India registered an important victory in the game as they defeated Australia by 20 runs.
- Kumara Sangakkara
Once again deemed as one of the gentlest players to have ever graced the game, Sangakkara committed to sledging only once in his lifetime and it was against none other than his South African counterpart, Shaun Pollock.
South Africa was wobbling at 149 for 5 in the 30th over when Pollock walked out in the middle. With 120 runs still to be scored, victory was slipping away from the Proteas. Everyone was well aware of the fact that Pollock as South Africa’s last hope and Sangakkars got into his skin very early.
With the cosh building around, Sanga pointed out the fact that Pollock has the entire weight of the nation on his shoulders. He also stated that there are 42 million supporters looking up at him. This was instantly followed with the jibe which stated that Pollock has let his nation down.
This, however, did not impact Pollock much as he managed to score a vital 25 and South Africa did end up tying the game only to be ousted of the 2003 World Cup in dramatic circumstances.
- Adam Gilchrist
This was a rare incident of Australia’s most adept cricketer losing his calm. After a short delivery from Chris Cairns that Gilly missed, the Kiwi shared a word or two at the Aussie wicket-keeper.
However, Gilchrist had a look at him and shied away, telling him, “Fuck off, mate.”
The next ball from Cairns was dispatched to the stands with an exquisite pull shot from Gilly.
- Rahul Dravid
It is actually a fable that Dravid is the gentlest cricketer to have ever played the game. The calmest man to have ever walked the 22-yard, Dravid tried his hand at sledging just one single time. That too was just the denouement of the show.
It all started with Steve Waugh saying Rahul Dravid in India’s second innings at Eden Gardens that what would be Dravid’s position in the next game. Will it be number 12? Dravid and Laxman then crafted a magical partnership to steer India out of jeopardy and force the pressure back on the Aussies.
With 384 to win, Australia was tucked at 161 for 3 when Saurav Ganguly miffed a catch of Waugh. Pointing to the Indian skipper, his words were, “You just dropped the test, mate.” Right after the break, Harbhajan Singh got rid of Stevie and Dravid popped out a few words which were, “Who’s given away the test now?”
- Stephen Fleming
Another hard-to-believe character who can sledge with all his good-man behaviour, he actually did sledge Graeme Smith once and that totally changed the complexion of the game.
With Smith on a song, it was hard for the Kiwis to get him out. Fleming kept on speculating ideas which could have changed the game and this is exactly where he took the war of words to an emotional Graeme Smith. After consistently weathering a storm of words, Smith was bowled for a sloppy 15.
Later when asked, Fleming stated, “He has been in great form during the series and we had to come up with a way of getting him out,” Fleming said of his sledging assault. “It isn’t always pretty but we’ll take any advantage we can get for the sake of the team.” He also continued, “I like the guy but I remember Steve Waugh doing it to me and I enjoyed the experience because I learned a lot.”