Many decades ago, in the last century, I played cricket. I think they were short on numbers. I batted for my school and post school. I tried to put bat to ball in the factory team where I worked.
I loved the game. Beautiful green ovals, the bonding of being part of a team, the competitive edge and the chance to develop one’s skills while learning from the skills of others. I never felt it was the game they play in heaven but I did think it was lots of fun. Last year when Philip Hughes was killed by a bouncer I felt the fun had gone from a great game. Like tens of thousands of Australians I left my old cricket bat and cap outside our front door as a mark of respect for a great cricketer. Accidents happen in all sports; this was one of the most tragic.
In reviewing his death, discussion has begun about the role of sledging in cricket. Some argue it’s harmless and all part of fiercely competitive sport. Others claim that Australians are among the worlds worse ledgers. I guess the idea behind the sledge is if you do it often enough and deep enough you will gain a psychological advantage and put your opponent off their game. I once got sledged while playing Poole. It had the opposite effect. It made me try harder. This suggests to me that sledging is misplaced and also unsportsmanlike. Every coach should teach their team members to play the ball not the person. Sledging today often involves the use of gutter language and personal threats. It does not enhance a game but it diminishes it. I would even suggest that sledging in cricket somehow legitimises the verbal abuse of others. When I watch Parliament on television it sounds like off the field sledging.
The biblical letter of James reminds us that words matter; they can heal or hurt, they can build up or destroy. Verbal abuse is unacceptable in a family or in a marriage, in an office or in a playground and dare I suggest in a sporting contest. Personally I would give sledging the red card. We are better off without it.
Bless people rather than curse them.
Steve Francis, Moderator