After West Zone captain Ajinkya Rahane sought to discipline his 20-year-old colleague Yashasvi Jaiswal, the latter left the field in the Duleep Trophy final against South Zone on Sunday. Jaiswal, exceptional with the bat in the match, had been sledging South Zone batter Ravi Teja, who complained to the on-field umpires. Captain Rahane, apprised of it, talked to the young batter, who then walked out of the field. It is rare when a captain asks a player to leave the ground for excessive sledging. Rahane later said whatever transpired was not acceptable; opponents, umpires and other officials must be respected at all times. The skipper is one of those players who always keeps a level head, and whose conduct on and off the field is exemplary. This brings us to the controversial topic of what constitutes sledging. What is within the rules?
Sledging can loosely be translated as a verbal act of aggression in the field of play. The Australian cricket team, which regularly used to do it under Steve Waugh, called it ‘mental disintegration’, to unsettle opponents. Because there is a very thin line that separates sporting and unsporting acts of aggression, the degree of the violation depends on interpretation. International cricket is replete with such instances. The iconic image of Pakistan’s Javed Miandad charging at Australia’s Dennis Lillee with a raised bat is forever etched in our memory. The infamous ‘Monkeygate’ episode involving India’s Harbhajan Singh and Aussie Andrew Symonds got authorities to sit up and take cognisance of the malaise. Though there is no rule penalising sledging, if it gets abusive—either personal or racial—umpires and match officials have the authority to step in. The content of sledging is subjective as they are open to interpretation, but captains like Rahane would not tolerate anything abusive and personal.
Of late, sledging has reduced considerably in international cricket because of the cordial relationship among players. With many of them becoming colleagues (or friends) thanks to representing the same franchises in the Indian Premier League and other franchise-based events, good-natured banter has replaced sledging. And ICC now has stricter rules like fines and allows players to complain to the umpire about on-field personal abuse. Yet, it’s up to individuals to ensure the gentleman’s game forever remains gentlemanly.