Sledging and Cultural Assymetry (Old Blog)

My last blog has a few comments from Australian friends (which is an excellent thing, we need more cross-communication for sure), and in the absence of a coherent Indian POV, the discussion will go nowhere. Not that this old-blog of mine is too coherent, but at least it tries to investigate the issues a little less angrily (?):


Language is probably the best barometer of cultural power-symmetry. For example, crusade is now something noble while jihad something evil. It wasn’t so always. But the dominant culture gradually redefines words from the dominated cultures. Not that this is my original discovery, realms have been written about it in post-colonial studies, in various parts of the world. But studying the cricketing world through the lens of cultural anthropology is a very illuminating exercise.

Not that I do it for a living! Nor does it happen out of the blue. The following article on Rediff triggered a chain of thoughts.

The Indian resistance on the fourth day of the third cricket Test in Melbourne was so frustrating for the Australians that they resorted to sledging to unsettle the batsmen at the crease.

Just like that, matter of fact. Afterall, it’s the Indian media, writing about the Australians (or the English…). Cricket, afterall, is a game with a colonial legacy. It’s the gentleman’s game! It’s the game where, the colonial powers decided all the rules, and the natives played the game by following those rules. Even till date, although most of the revenue for the governing bodies is generated thanks to the sub-continent, it’s predominantly ruled by the whites! More so, off the ground (one Jagmohan Dalmia notwithstanding).

Let’s ask ourselves a basic question: what is more detrimental to the spirit of cricket — excessive appealing or sledging? If you ask me, I’d say the latter. Why? Because, excessive is a relative term — and in the heat of the things, it’s easy to cross the line between correct and frivolous appealing (you believe it’s out!). But consider sledging — you’re standing in the sleep cordon, and you deliberately provoke a batsmen by saying dirty things about his family and things like that. That’s cold-blooded killing of the spirit of the game.

In reality, however, Indian players have been penalized for excessive appealing, while most AES (Aus-Eng-SA) players have gone absolutely scot free for graver crimes — abusing batsmen and even umpires! And what a nice name they have coined for their crimes – gamesmanship!

With respect to the alleged sledging in the third test, see what Allan Border has to say:

Former Australia captain and now national selector Allan Border termed Williams’s aggression as one of a young, eager fast bowler.”I am sure if anything was big enough, he would have been dealt with by the match referee and umpires,” said Border.

Clear and simple! And since not many umpires have dealt with Australian players like McGrath, by the same reasoning, there is really no no sledging going on! Like, Steve Waugh said sometime back:

I don’t think there is that much sledging going on. I think it is overstated. There is a bit of it, but I think the present lot of cricketers is definitely better behaved. Much was made of the sledging incident involving Glenn McGrath during our tour of the West Indies. But I can tell you that we played the game in the right spirit. We encourage each other as teammates and together try to put pressure on the opposition. That is important.

That’s what happens when the rule makers, judges and the accused belong to the same culture! What’s more, it becomes an almost acceptable behaviour. For instance: (from the same news-item)

The Indian team management has not filed any official complaint on the matter and Ganguly said it was “nothing unusual” though he admitted being the focus of special attention from the hosts in the edge-of-the-seat contest on the penultimate day of the Test.

Maybe Ganguly knows the futility of complaining about this, but this does send a wrong message — that it’s okay to sledge. A formal complaint wouldn’t solve things, but it would make the respective board to take notice of the incidence. Afterall, in a skewed contest, it becomes more important to use every ethical way that you have — it’s almost imperative.Those who think cultural anthropology is an ivory-tower discipline, should have a look at Cricket. There are too many practical examples of the cultural power-asymmetry to miss. It might even be an interesting little exercise.


One thought on “Sledging and Cultural Assymetry (Old Blog)

  1. Aria says:

    I read something yesterday, wherein Steve Waugh had said … that ‘monkey’ isn’t a racially abusive term for ppl in the subcontinent on the other hand ‘bastard’ isn’t all that offenssive for aussies.. they call each other ‘lucky bastards’ jokingly but Indians and West Indians find it hard to digest… so there could be a cultural angle too to the present controversy.
    However according to me.. excessive sledging should be done away with .. a little bit of tussle is entertaining .. but Andre Nel @ Andrew Symonds amongst the present lot of cricketers are damn irritating and they always get away despite their theatrics. Besides, I think either Symonds has some kind of complex that he is always paranoid he had been ‘racially abused’ or maybe he is plain shrewd and is using his ‘origins’ .. that should be the new ‘gamesmanship’ formula invented in the laboratory of ponting and company.

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