It’s mid afternoon on a balmy English summer’s afternoon as I stroll out to the crease in my first men’s cricket match. 16 years old, I had only ever played school cricket before and therefore was occasionally used to a clap on my arrival to the crease, or at worst a respectful silence.
But today was different, I hadn’t even got a chance to ask the umpire for my guard before a slightly overweight middle aged man at mid-off chirped at me: ‘The under 11’s match isn’t on until Monday, mate’. A less than humorous quip was greeted with a few laughs from his team mates while I completely ignored it, stoney faced as I channeled my inner Jonathan Trott.
I didn’t mind this ‘sledge’ at the start of the innings, it was a comment on my age used for cheap laughs by a bloke whose Mum still probably buys his clothes. But after I had played and missed my first five balls (naturally) it got a little more personal. The wicket-keeper obviously very keen to help me in my debut to men’s cricket started telling me how I needed to leave more balls, and if I was going to play how I needed to get my head over the ball.
He said it nicely enough, no sense of sarcasm or disdain. I smiled back at him before proceeding to slash at a wide one, edging it just wide of slip. It was fair to say this did not impress the opposition in the slightest, and despite picking up numerous ones and twos with ‘beautiful’ drives they seemed pretty unconvinced by my technique.
Having been sent out to open I was still in after ten overs, much to my surprise. Granted I had not done much of the run scoring but I was still there. Full of myopic confidence I decided it was ‘time to come out of my shell’ as they brought on the resident old aged off spinner who doesn’t spin it. First ball, a top edged sweep falling in between two fielders for 2 runs. Then a dot ball as I maturely offered a leave outside my off stump. Third ball I went for a cover drive with no foot movement and missed it by a mile.
^^When sledging goes wrong.
At this point, the keeper who had been so kind in offering advice earlier loudly told his mate at slip: ‘this lad can’t bat’. Next over I was bowled through the gate and that was that, the keeper’s prophecy had come to fruition, my first forage into men’s cricket with the bat was over.
Looking back on the day it was not the action itself that sticks out. Instead I remember quite clearly the three distinct types of sledging I had received, albeit not nearly as ferocious as some of the sledging I have heard since.
There was the chubby bloke at the start who opted for a classic jibe with little wit, an old classic if you will. Then there was the keeper who tried to get in my head by offering tips on my technique. Finally the keeper, once again, was downright rude and told me I couldn’t bat. This may well have been true but it’s a common sledging practice: being a dick.
So here are the three techniques you might want to employ if you were thinking of sledging someone needlessly in what could have been an amicable game of cricket:
Give ’em the old classics
Demographic: Generally used by 10 year olds at school or middle aged men with no mates.
Examples: ‘More leaves than a tree’, ‘got more misses than Henry VIII’, ‘more edges than a dodecahedron’ … all of that shit… A personal favourite heard from a particularly nerdy player towards the end of my school days: ‘wafting like a ciliated epithelial cell’
Usefulness: Depends how old you are when you are using it. If you are an 8 year old and whip out the line about Henry VIII you’ll be the talk of the playground for the rest of the year, use it when you’re 40 odd and you’ll get looked at as if you still live with your Mum and will for the rest of your life… chances are you probably do.
Get in their heads
Demographic: Used by trendy 20 – 30 year olds and the great thing about this trick is it can be used on pretty much anyone.
Examples: Asking a batsman if they breath in or out when they hit the ball is a classic, but being obscenely nice to the batsman can also prove effective. This means that you can sledge a 14 year old without getting in trouble because you were ‘just being friendly’. Great example comes from Mark Boucher, who basically talked Tatenda Taibu out in a typically South African manner.
Usefulness: Probably the most useful of the three. In addition, nothing beats telling your quick that the bloke he castled was effectively your wicket because you had ‘got in his head’.
Be downright rude / be a dick.
Demographic: Grumpy old git who probably smokes a pack of cigarettes in the course of an innings.
Examples: Very difficult to give examples of verbal abuse, you can use your own imagination.
Usefulness: It’s generally used when people get bored of trying to get into someones head and therefore resort to telling them how shit they are instead.