All In The (Gentlemen’s) Game


Tangy Tuesday Picks 

My husband has been reading the Barry Norman’s Book of Cricket. Now he knows I am far from being an avid follower of cricket–my interest in the game waxes and wanes with the performance of our national team, and has naturally hit rock bottom of late–so he very kindly refrains from talking cricket with me. Yesterday, however, he handed me the book and asked me to read a chapter on the phenomenon of sledging or the heckling that bowlers, with the wicket-keeper in active cahoots, indulge in to distract batsmen into making mistakes and losing their wickets. Something like that is bound to make for interesting reading, and I must say I was not disappointed!

By all accounts sledging has existed ever since the game came to be played but it is undoubtedly the Australians who can lay claim to having raised it to the level of an art, having perfected it with a great deal of practice.It comes as no surprise that the word itself owes its origin to an Australian slang for someone who swears in the presence of a lady–a sledge is somebody who is as subtle as a sledge-hammer.

Sledging primarily involves insults about the batsman’s ineptitude. If the batsman can keep his cool and hit the ball well, the joke can all too easily be turned on the bowler. Instance: Aussie fast bowler Merv Hughes to Robin Smith:’You can’t f****** bat!’ Smith responded by sending the ball to the boundary, and shouting back,’We make a good pair, Merv. I can’t f****** bat and you can’t f****** bowl!’ Not bad!

Another delightful gem  involves perennial bad boy Shane Warne. When Daryll Cullinan of South Africa went in to bat against Australia, Warne said he’d been waiting two years for the chance to get him out again. Cullinan looked Warne up and down and retorted:’Looks like you spent the whole time eating.’ I wish the book had carried a photograph of Warnie’s face at this point 😉

And my personal favourite–Norman quotes Mark Waugh as greeting an incoming James Ormond (err…who??) with ” Stone me, look who it is!! Mate, you aren’t good enough to be playing for England!! ‘Maybe not’, responded Ormond,’ but I’m the best player in my family.’ Brilliant!!

It frequently gets personal, Norman gleefully informs us, but it  isn’t taken too seriously as long as it is ‘within limits’.

It wouldn’t be out of place here to take a look at some of the ‘personal but within limits’ incidents that the book recounts:

1.Rodney Marsh to an incoming Ian Botham,’ G’day, Beefy! How are your wife and my kids? Botham, quick as a flash,’ The wife’s fine, the kids are retarded’. Ouch!!

2.Glenn McGrath to Ramnaresh Sarwan,’What’s Lara like in bed,mate? Sarwan:’ I don’t know, ask your wife!’ Eek! I suppose Sarwan was only giving back as good as he got, but did he have to bring in his tormentor’s wife?

3.Glenn McGrath again to the plump Zimbabwean Eddo Brandes,’Why are you so fat? ‘Brandes:’ Because every time I f*** your wife she gives me a biscuit.'( Uncalled for and way too crass. I seriously don’t get it why Norman thinks this was within limits)

And now for what Norman does consider ‘way beyond the limit’. Well, the ‘monkeygate’ involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds for one. And another incident when during a county match Ronnie Irani, Essex captain, accused Hampshire’s Shane Warne of calling his mother a whore.

Hmm. But I was intrigued by the fact that similar suggestions about the players’ wives are considered acceptable. Apparently, insults directed at the wife are not reported while those directed at the mother are. Why does calling someone’s mother names cause more offence? Could it be because the idea of the mother as an asexual, pure being transcends cultures? And could it be that it is considered unmanly to react too strongly to insults made to the wife, as that might betray the man as being a tad too loving and devoted?

What do you think?

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12 Responses to All In The (Gentlemen’s) Game

  1. R's Mom says:

    hahaha! I am not answering anything to the last para…but I sure need to ‘gift’ this book to RD..thanks for the reco…the jokes involving the wives are crude and totally beyond the line..but the others sure are fun to read 🙂

  2. That was fun to read.

    Parliamentarians freely indulge in sledging but the standard is of course much higher.

    You probably have already heard of this encounter between Disraeli and Gladstone in the British Parliament.

    They were serious rivals and couldn’t stand each other.

    One of them (I can’t recall who)lost control and screamed at the other :

    “You, sir, will die either at the gallows or of venereal disease!”

    “That sir”, replied the other, “will depend on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress”

    Winston Churchill is credited with several gems.

    In answer to your question in the final para:

    I haven’t particularly noticed that men are less sensitive to insults to wives or girlfriends. I believe they would react equally strongly. I remember a friend who bashed up a fellow for making uncharitable remarks about the bust size of his girl friend. The defaulter had called her “Neembu sized” (Lemons sized), mischievously suggesting that, that was all she had as assets.

    Even Fathers are supposed to be kept out range for abuse.
    I remember a friend who reacted furiously when another friend taunted him “Tera Baap ka maal hai kya?” in an argument.

    Some people can’t tolerate disparaging references to even their native places.

    Sledging descends to low levels in the cricket field.
    But the examples you quoted still have some class.
    Have you heard how army men sledge?
    What about Punjabi truck drivers?
    The gems they mouth in Punjabi defy translation.
    Even asterisks can’t take the heat off those words if you try to translate and reproduce them.

    Like you, my interest in cricket waxes and wanes with the team’s performance.
    Poor Dravid and Laxman. They are going to have to pay heavily of course. But Tendulkar is safe. Till he gets is 100th ton!
    It has become a national obsession! No one is going to allow him to retire. One sure way to arrange it is to organise a test series against Bangla Desh!


    • GV, the Disraeli-Gladstone incident was indeed a gem!

      I am not sure but I think ‘baap ka maal’ is a rude reference to the mother–just as ‘saala’ is a rude reference to the sister.

      //One sure way to arrange it is to organise a test series against Bangla Desh!//
      Haha, exactly what my husband says 😀

      • “Maal” is used in the sense of goods, or possessions in the context I was referring to.
        It was like asking “Is this your Pop’s property?”
        So I dont’t think a slight to the mother was intended.

  3. I guess all the insults that involve women are insults basically because women are not supposed to be sexual beings, but no point not seeing them as offensive if they are still being used for offending.

  4. //all the insults that involve women are insults basically because women are not supposed to be sexual beings//
    Good to see you here, IHM 🙂

  5. Abhishek says:

    This is boy talk and is as crude as can be. No point analysing it!

    BTW, McGrath absolutely lost it with Sarwan (his wife was suffering from Breast Cancer at that time) and a standoff threatening to get out of control occurred. I won’t blame Sarwan though. If you decide to jump in mud, all you get is your own clothes dirty.

    Eddo Brandes is also reportedly the only player to have shut McGrath up!

    Also, it is a misconception that sledging only means getting abusive. It can very well involve referring to some embarrassing dismissal, prior poor record and current bad form- the only motive is to get under the skin of the other person and make them do things they won’t normally do, e.g., make a defensive batsmen hit out (and thus get out!)

  6. Welcome here, Abhishek!
    I’m kind of glad to know that McGrath lost it with Sarwan, though I too wouldn’t blame Sarwan !!

  7. souldipper says:

    What a great read! Being Canadian, I know very little about cricket itself, but if I’d know there was this much humour going on, I may have tuned in when I was in countries where it is played!

  8. Scribby says:

    I’m no cricket fan either but of course my Husby is and I discussed this post with him…While he was smiling at the entire post at the end he told me how gross it gets in sledging and how it’s unfair to bring in family-be it mother or wife or even children in account…

    Sigh, even in the [gentlemen’s] game wives [and mothers] are not safe eh?

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