Who Would Have Thought It – A 15-year-old spinner’s sensational record

  On 23rd July, 2000, Sajjida Shah of Pakistan Women became the youngest cricketer to feature in an international match. At the bewildering age of 12 years and 171 days, the off-spinning all-rounder took the field against Ireland Women at Dublin to break the record held by Gargi Banerji, who was 14 years and 165 days when she debuted for India in 1977-78.

  Three years down the line, Shah enjoyed the most productive day of her career. Six second-tier nations – Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Japan – were taking part in the International Women’s Cricket Council Trophy in Netherlands. Pakistan’s first match was on 21st July, 2003 at Amsterdam against newbies Japan, who were playing their first ever international.

   Pakistan finished at 181/6 in their 50 overs after captain Shaiza Khan elected to bat. The highest score was only 31, by opener Kiran Baluch, but there were as many as 54 extras – including a whopping 43 wides – given away by the debutantes. Khan scored an unbeaten 30 while Nazia Nazir chipped in with 24. Captain Kaori Kato, a medium pacer, was the pick of the bowlers with 2/25 in ten overs.

  Japan began their chase soundly, with openers Yuko Sasaki and Ema Kuribayashi putting on 21 for the first wicket, albeit with plenty of help from extras. What followed was arguably the most sensational collapse seen in any ODI match.

  Shah, now aged 15 years and 169 days, castled Sasaki and then trapped Kuribayashi leg before within the space of two runs. Both the openers made three runs each – which turned out to be the joint-highest individual scores of the innings.

  Shah’s off-breaks in tandem with Khursheed Jabeen’s slow left-arm were virtually unplayable for the Japanese novices, who were found to be woefully out of depth. Run-scoring became impossible in the literal sense as none of the remaining batswomen crossed even one run. With the score at 23/2, Jabeen removed Shizuka Kubota for one before Shah came back to further embarrass the debutantes. 

Karachi, PAKISTAN:  Pakistani bowler Sajjida Shah bowls during the second Women's Asia Cup match against India at the National Stadium in Karachi, 30 December 2005.  India won by 193 runs. AFP PHOTO/ Rizwan TABASSUM  (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

      Sajjida Shah, the youngest person to play international cricket, destroyed Japan with a record spell as a 15-year-old in 2003 (source – rizwan tabassum/afp/gettyimages.co.uk)

  The teenager spun a web around the middle order, beginning with the wicket of Maki Kenjo, who was bowled for a duck – the first of six in the innings. Izumi Iimura too was bowled for no score.

  Aya Fujishiro soon followed as she popped a catch to captain Khan, giving Shah her first and only five-wicket haul in internationals. Japan had lost four wickets for no run and crashed to 23/6.

  Then with the score at 27, Jabeen claimed the wickets of Keiko Uchibori and Michiko Kono. She ended with a remarkable analysis of 10-8-2-3. Shah wrapped things up by crashing through the defences of Momoko Saito – who scored a rare single – and Ritsuko Hiroto in quick succession.

  Thus ended Japan’s agony – the innings had lasted for 34 overs, but yielded just 28 runs. Needless to say, 20 out of those 28 were extras. Japan had lost all their wickets for just seven runs.

  Shah finished with world record figures of 8-5-4-7, overhauling the twelve-year-old feat of Englishwoman Jo Chamberlain who took 7/8 against Denmark in a Women’s European Championship match at Haarlem in 1991.

  There have since been two other seven-wicket hauls in women’s ODIs, but Shah’s scarcely believable return will take some beating. In all international cricket (men and women), her figures are the second-best in an ODI after Chaminda Vaas’ 8/19 against Zimbabwe in 2001-02.

  No other Pakistani woman has claimed six wickets in an ODI. In fact, no Pakistani woman had claimed even five until Shah’s bamboozling spell. Pakistan’s win by 153 runs was their biggest at that point, before being surpassed by a 193-run win over Netherlands at Fatullah in 2011-12. 

  Interestingly, Japan’s total of 28 is not the lowest in women’s ODIs. That ignominy goes to Netherlands, who were shot out for 22 against the West Indies at Deventer in 2008. Until then, the lowest was Pakistan’s own 23 against Australia at Melbourne in 1996-97. Japan did not even cross 100 in any of their remaining four matches of the tournament, and have never played an ODI since.

  Shah has so far played in two Tests, 60 ODIs and eight T20Is. In her second Test against the West Indies at Karachi in 2003-04, she scored 98 and shared a record opening stand of 241 with Baluch, who scored a world record 242.

  She was part of the Pakistan team which played the Women’s World Cup in Australia in 2009. Her most recent international appearance came against India at Basseterre in the 2010 World Twenty20. 

Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/67342.html

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Specials – Eleven Test records that may never be broken

  Throughout its glorious history, Test cricket has produced many world-class players, and many records have been bettered time and again.

  However, there are a few astonishing numbers that have stood the test of time, and it is quite possible that they will forever remain unchallenged.

  The cliché says that ‘records are meant to be broken’, but the following 11 records seem to be exceptions.

1. Highest batting average

  99.94 is the benchmark for batting greatness. Sir Donald Bradman logged 6996 runs in 52 Tests at this gargantuan average – which is unlikely to be surpassed by anyone.

  The great man might have achieved a round average of 100, had he scored just four runs in his last Test innings.

  Among those who have played at least 20 innings, only three other batsmen have finished their career with an average of more than 60, with South African Graeme Pollock’s 60.97 being the second-highest in the list – nearly 39 runs behind Bradman.

  Among current players, Bangladesh’s Mominul Haque has the highest average with 58.75. But he has played only 15 Tests, so that figure is quite likely to go down.

zzdon           The great Don Bradman – holder of an immortal record (source – sportskeeda.com)

2. Highest score in a debut innings

  England’s Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster scored a small matter of 287 runs in his very first Test innings, against Australia at Sydney in 1902-03.

  It will take a brave man to say that this record will be broken. After all, it has been standing for 112 years. This was Foster’s only century in his eight-match career, and he died at the young age of 36 due to diabetes.

  Sitting second on this list is South Africa’s Jacques Rudolph, who scored 222* in his first innings against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2002-03.

3. Most number of wickets

  Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka retired in 2010 with an amazing 800 wickets, 92 clear of his closest contender – Australian Shane Warne. The controversy over his action notwithstanding, ‘Murali’ has been a legend of the game.

  With the number of Test matches getting reduced by the year and bowlers retiring early, Muralitharan’s record will be nigh impossible to beat.

  Among the current crop, India’s Harbhajan Singh is way behind at 413, and his career is as good as over. South Africa’s Dale Steyn currently has 383 wickets and looks fit enough to continue for some time. But one cannot expect him to get anywhere close to Murali’s tally.

4. Slowest fifty

  Trevor Bailey of England, who passed away in 2011, was known as the ‘Barnacle’, since he saved his team from many a sticky situation with his customary, ultra-defensive batting style. No surprises then, that he is the holder of the slowest recorded Test fifty.

  He took 350 balls and 357 minutes to reach the landmark against Australia at Brisbane in 1958-59, where he opened the innings. In all, he faced 438 balls for 68.

  This is also the slowest fifty in all of first-class cricket. Even Chris Tavare could not beat this record, despite his best efforts.

5. Largest margin of victory by runs

  In the first Test of the 1928-29 Ashes at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane, England thumped the hosts by an unprecedented margin of 675 runs. Chasing an incredible 741, Australia were all out for 66. England went on to win the series 4-1.

  In today’s level playing field, it is unlikely that this record is going to be surpassed – unless the Chinese are given Test status with immediate effect.

6. Highest partnership for any wicket

zzj       Mahela Jayawardene (374) and Kumar Sangakkara (287) put on a world record 624 runs for the third wicket against South Africa in 2006 (source – gettyimages)

  Considering the short attention spans of most batsmen today, it will take a lot to beat this record, even though it was set in as recently as 2006.

  Immortality might have been ensured for the 624 runs stitched by the Sri Lankan pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene for the third against South Africa at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo.

  Since then, there has been only one instance of a stand worth more than 400 runs in a Test – 415 by South African openers Greame Smith and Neil McKenzie against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2007-08.

7. Best match bowling figures

  Jim Laker, the English off-spinner, made the 1956 Old Trafford Test against Australia completely his own as he finished with eye-popping match figures of 19/90.

  Laker took 9/37 in the first innings and then completed the first ever ‘perfect ten’ in Tests in the second innings, taking 10/53.

  Anil Kumble of India has been the only other man to take all ten in an innings, but Laker’s match haul is unlikely to be repeated.

  Laker’s feat is also the best ever in all first-class cricket, with only two others managing 18 in a match, way back in 1837 and 1861.

8. Oldest player on debut

  In the very first Test match, played between Australia and England at Melbourne in 1876-77, England fielded a slow left-armer by the name of James Southerton who was only 49 years and 119 days old!

  Surely experience does matter, but this record is probably the most likely to stay forever. It would be shocking if a modern Test team awarded a cap to someone older than this age, let alone on debut.

  Southerton played only one more Test, and then achieved a record he would not have liked – he became the first Test player to die (1827-1880).

9. Longest career

zzwa      English great Wilfred Rhodes played 58 Tests spread across more than three decades (source – alloutcricket.com)

  England and Yorkshire’s legendary slow left-arm bowler Wilfred Rhodes’ Test career spanned a whopping 30 years and 315 days, during which he played 58 Tests.

  He made his debut aged 21 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1899, and played his last Test against the West Indies at Kingston in 1929-30, aged 52 (when England famously fielded a ‘granddad’ squad – two players above 50 and three more above 40 – and yet amassed 849 in a drawn affair!).

  Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar still needed to play for nearly seven years more to claim this record when he retired in 2013 – he sits fifth on the list, with a career spanning 24 years and one day.

10. Longest intervals between appearances

  Egypt-born off spinner John Traicos, one of the handful of Test players to play for two countries, returned to Test cricket by turning out for Zimbabwe in their first ever Test, at Harare against India in 1992-93 at the age of 45.

  This was 22 years and 222 days after he last played a Test for South Africa, for whom he played three Tests in 1969-70 just before the national side was banned from the game. For Zimbabwe, he played four Tests in all.

  This remains the longest gap between two consecutive appearances by a Test player, and surely no one will ever have a shot at this record.

11. Highest score by a nightwatchman

  People may disagree here, given how deep most Test batting line-ups are today, but I am sticking my neck out that Australian Jason Gillespie’s record innings of 201 not out, against Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2005-06, will forever remain the record for the highest score made by a nightwatchman.

  Gillespie achieved this feat, the finest batting performance of his career, in what ironically turned out to be his last international appearance for Australia.

 – Watch Jim Laker run through Australia at Old Trafford.

Record Book – The first international tie-breaker

  International Twenty20 was still in its infancy when the West Indies embarked upon a full tour of New Zealand in 2005-06. Until this point, only four T20 internationals had been played – one each in New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia.

  The tour kicked off with a solitary T20 international played on 16th February, 2006 at Eden Park in Auckland, which was also the venue for the inaugural T20I between New Zealand and Australia in February 2005. In those days before the advent of the ICC World Twenty20, the shortest format of the game was taken no more seriously than an exhibition match.

  Just as against Australia a year earlier, the New Zealanders, led by the astute Stephen Fleming, strode out on the field wearing their retro beige outfits from the 1980’s. The hosts had a mixed record in the two T20Is they had played so far; while they were beaten by 44 runs against Australia, they managed a five-wicket win against South Africa at Johannesburg in October 2005.

  This was the first T20I played by the West Indies, who were captained by Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Surely, this game would have been just a sideshow in the eyes of the tourists, who were seeking a better return than their last visit to the country in 1999-00, when they were blanked in all the matches – 2-0 in the Tests and 5-0 in the ODIs.

  The turnout for the match was close to 23,000 as Fleming inserted the West Indies in after winning the toss. The dangerous Chris Gayle was nipped out early by Shane Bond, caught by Nathan Astle in the fourth over with the score on 14 and the innings never really gained momentum. In the eighth over, the run rate was not even four when Runako Morton fell to Scott Styris to make it 28/2.

  A direct hit from Chris Cairns – who was playing his last international – sent back Dwayne Smith while Darren Ganga hung around for nearly ten overs before being caught by James Franklin off Styris for 26.

  At the halfway mark, the score read a disappointing 54/4. Another run out, that of Wavell Hinds, soon followed as the visitors struggled to 79/5 with just six overs left and a flourish desperately needed.

  Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo attempted to force the pace during a sixth-wicket stand of 31, the best of the innings, but the new Zealand bowlers gave little away. Off-spinner Jeetan Patel got rid of Chanderpaul for 26 (joint-highest scorer of the innings along with Ganga) courtesy a catch by Hamish Marshall.

zzv    Lou Vincent dives unsuccesfully in an attempt to run out Darren Ganga in the solitary T20I at Auckland in 2005-06 (source – afp/espncricinfo.com)

  Bravo remained unbeaten on 19 as the West Indies finished at a below-par 126/7 in their 20 overs. Only one six was hit, which came from Ganga’s bat off Styris in the eighth over which fetched 13 runs – the best of the innings. Bond was the pick of the bowlers with an impressive return of 2/15 in the allotted four overs.

  Fleming was dismissed by Jerome Taylor in the second over with score on 14, but Lou Vincent took off at the other end. He dominated a second-wicket stand of 31 – which turned out to be the best of the innings – with Astle before Taylor accounted for the latter. At this stage, the score had moved along nicely to 45/2 in six overs and New Zealand were firmly in the driver’s seat.

  Vincent and Styris added a further 28 for the third wicket before Bravo opened the floodgates with two vital wickets in successive overs. He first castled Styris in his second over (tenth over of the innings) before repeating the dose to Cairns in his next. Cairns scored only two in his last international appearance and walked off to a standing ovation. Bravo went off injured soon after, finishing with 2/16.

  Tight bowling from the medium pacer Smith (2/9 in 3.2 overs) and the slow left-armer Gayle squeezed the run flow. Vincent played one from Smith onto his stumps to be out for 42 off 37 balls, the highest score of the match.

  An over later, Gayle removed Marshall and suddenly the hosts slumped to 88/6 in the 15th over. Wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum could only manage four runs off ten balls before falling to Smith to make it 101/7 with 16 balls remaining.

  An exciting finish was beckoning even as Gayle dismissed Peter Fulton off the third ball of the 19th over. With just two wickets in hand, New Zealand still required 20 to win from only nine balls. Gayle ended the over without much drama and finished with 2/22. The Windies were seemingly favourites. But as we know well by now, T20 is a fickle beast.

  Left-arm pace bowler Ian Bradshaw, who had figures of 3-0-8-0, was rightfully trusted for the final over from which New Zealand needed 16 runs to win. James Franklin took two off the first ball before smashing the next ball, a fuller delivery, for six.

  The hosts were right back in it, now needing eight off four balls. But Bradshaw regained his composure and conceded only two singles and a leg-bye off the next three balls.

  With five runs to win off the final delivery, it was Bond who was on strike. Four to tie, six to win. As it happened, Bradshaw obliged with a full toss which Bond dispatched to the boundary for four. The crowd roared as New Zealand finished at 126/8, with the unbroken partnership between Franklin and Bond yielding 19 handy runs.

  The scores were level and soon it was made known that a tie-breaker called the ‘bowl-out’ would be played in order to declare the winner. The essence of T20 is to ensure that one side walks away victorious after every completed game and the bowl-out was the precursor to the super over, which is now uniformly used to decide tied T20 matches.

zzbonk       Shane Bond hits the stumps as his teammates and opponents look on during the bowl-out at Eden Park (source – afp/espncricinfo.com)

  In its short history since 2003, T20 cricket had seen only two tied matches until this point. The first instance was at the Oval in 2005, when Surrey edged out Warwickshire 4-3 in a Twenty20 Cup quarterfinal. The second was in 2005-06 between Colts and Kurunegala at Colombo. The bowl-out was first used in 1991 in a NatWest Trophy match between Derbyshire and Hertfordshire at Bishops Stortford. 

  The rules of a bowl-out were pretty straightforward – five bowlers from each side deliver two balls each (though there have been instances of one ball each too) at an unguarded wicket and the team with the greater number of successful hits was the winner. If the scores are yet the same, the bowl-out went into sudden death, similar to a penalty shootout in football.

  Coming back to Auckland, New Zealand decided to begin the shootout with Astle, who missed twice. Smith, Patel and Gayle too could not target the stumps in either of their chances.

  Cairns was the next one in and the crowd were undoubtedly hoping for him to hit and bow out in style. However, he too missed twice. When Taylor too shot blanks, the score read 0-0 after three rounds, with twelve successive deliveries failing to hit timber.

  Then came Bond, who followed up his last-ball boundary with a brace of accurate deliveries, both of which hit the wicket. Bradshaw had a chance for redemption after his profligate final over, but he could do no better than his team-mates.

  Finally, Styris hit the winner, sealing a 3-0 result in favour of New Zealand. It was quite a damp end to an otherwise interesting game and many likened the bowl-out to a ‘farce’. Smith was named man of the match for his economical spell. 

  The bowl-out made way for the super over two years later, and coincidentally New Zealand and the West Indies were involved in the first T20 international super over as well, also played at Eden Park in 2008-09.

  This time it was the Windies who clinched the tie-breaker. The two teams then met in another super over at Pallekele in the 2012 World T20, where again the West Indies emerged winners.

  Interestingly, in spite of the provision of a tie-breaker, the end result of the concerned match is officially recorded only as a tie. Neither the bowl-out nor the super over has been used in ODIs till date, although a tied result in a knockout match would change that. In earlier times quite a few tied ODIs were decided on the basis of number of wickets fallen.

  Following this result, the bowl-out was used twice in T20Is. The most well-known instance came in the 2007 World T20, when India pipped Pakistan 3-0 at Durban after both sides ended with 141. Then in 2008, Zimbabwe won 2-0 against Canada at King City after both sides scored 135.

  Presently, the super over is generally resorted to in all tied T20 matches, irrespective of whether it is a knockout match or not. In all, there have been eight tied T20Is till date, the latest one being the aforementioned 2012 World T20 match between New Zealand and West Indies.

Match Scorecard

In Focus – Barramundis take another significant stride

  The Papua New Guinea national team, also known as the Barramundis, wrote a new chapter in their cricketing history when they defeated Netherlands by five wickets in their opening Intercontinental Cup match at the VRA Ground in Amstelveen yesterday.

  The ongoing edition of the Intercontinental Cup, slated to reach its climax at the end of 2017, is of utmost importance to each of the eight nations taking part as the winner will get an opportunity to become the eleventh Test nation.

  Papua New Guinea qualified for the tournament by virtue of becoming a full-fledged ODI nation after finishing fourth in the ICC World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand in 2013-14.

  In November last year, the Barramundis created history when they became the first nation to win its first two ODI matches. Facing Hong Kong at the Tony Ireland Stadium, their adopted home ground in Townsville, the spirited East-Asia Pacific champions scored victories by four wickets and three wickets respectively to announce their arrival on the international stage.

  A few days after the ODI series, Papua New Guinea had met Hong Kong in a three-day fixture at the same venue. The Barramundis put in a clinical performance to win comprehensively by 133 runs. The top-scorer on that occasion was 27-year-old Assad Vala, who struck a rapid 98 to power his side to 469/7 in the first innings.

  Prior to this, the team had no experience of multi-day cricket except for the two-day South Australian Premier League in 2013-14. The team is more suited to the limited-overs formats, but the impressive win in the three-day match against Hong Kong showed that they were willing to learn. As it turned out, it was a harbinger of things to come.

zpngg    Assad Vala walks back after guiding Papua New Guinea to a historic five-wicket win in their maiden first-class match. He scored 124* (source – icc-cricket.com)

  The win over the Dutchmen is historic in more ways than one. This was Papua New Guinea’s maiden first-class match, and by winning it the team has shown that they are as capable in the multi-day format as in the limited-overs formats.

  Moreover, it came overseas against a more established team, and that too after playing catch-up for a major part of the game. The final-day catalysts for the victory were Vala and Mahuru Dai, who combined for a 200-run fifth-wicket partnership.

  The Barramundis began well on the opening day by bowling the hosts out for 209, with the seamers doing the bulk of the damage. 27-year-old Loa Nou was the pick of them with a handsome return of 5/49. However, the Dutch fast bowlers, led by Timm van der Gugten (6/29), fared even better as they helped bowl out Papua New Guinea for 128 to give their team the lead.

  Another encouraging bowling display from the visitors in the second innings saw the Dutch stumble to 17/3 and then 110/7, before the score recovered to 223. Thus in their very first first-class match, the Barramundis required a formidable 305 to win. They ended the third day at 66/2, with the exciting 22-year-old Lega Siaka signalling his intent with a blitzkrieg 49 off 37 balls before getting out.

  Siaka’s onslaught stated that Papua New Guinea had decided to approach the chase with a highly positive mindset. There was plenty of time on hand and the pitch was gradually easing out.

  On the final day, things were looking dicey when two quick wickets sent the score to 82/4. Another wicket here would have been disastrous. However, Vala and Dai got together and scripted an alliance which will be remembered for long.

  Vala, batting from number three, showed his class with a memorable hundred – he remained unbeaten on 124 – while Dai, a composed 31-year-old spin-bowling all-rounder, provided great support before being dismissed for 91.

  By this time, only 23 more runs were needed, which were achieved without much ado. It was captain Jack Vare who hit the winning boundary in the 77th over as his side completed a fantastic run chase against the odds.

zzzzp     The Barramundis are a happy lot after their landmark victory over Netherlands in the Intercontinental Cup (source – cricketpng) 

  An overexcited Vare later said that he cannot speak highly enough of the boys because it was a very special day for the team. “We shared a few tears after chatting about the match and it was very mixed emotions,” he said. 

  Cricket PNG General Manager Greg Campbell, a former Australian international, was also extremely pleased with the win. “Cricket in PNG is on the way up. We’ve now won our first two ODIs and our first I-Cup match ever which is an incredible achievement for everyone involved”, he added.

  It is pertinent to note that Papua New Guinea were made an ICC Associate member back in 1973, much before the likes of Ireland (1993) , Scotland (1994), Kenya (1981) and the United Arab Emirates (1990).

  It took them over 40 years to finally play a recognised ODI, and if their current form is any indication, they can only get better. Cricketing infrastructure remains an issue, but strong performances will ultimately ensure that more funds pour in.

  Papua New Guinea were placed in Division Three of the World Cricket League in 2011, and since then, their climb to the top tier of Associate cricket has been steady. Their current coach is the former New Zealand off-spinner Dipak Patel, who has clearly brought in an admirable level of professionalism to the squad. He was a proud man as he witnessed Vala and Dai maturely steer their team from troubled waters to an island of jubilation.

  Patel was all praise for his team’s achievement and rightly so. “You never felt that we were behind the ball – we just needed to, in many ways, with the bat and ball just have a couple of sessions where we could get on top of them.

  Today was a classic example: the proof was there that these guys can play the longer form of the game because this is the first time they’ve ever played – let alone a two-day game or three-day game – this is the first time they’ve ever played a four-day game, so when you take that into consideration, it’s a fantastic feat’‘, he said after the match.

  The win enabled the Barramundis to pocket 14 points and after the first of seven rounds, they sit third behind Ireland and Namibia, both of whom have 20 points each. The Netherlands earned six points by virtue of gaining the first-innings lead. Papua New Guinea will face Afghanistan in their second match, which will possibly be played during October in the UAE.

  They are also part of the 2015-2017 World Cricket League, and they will begin that campaign with a brace of 50-over matches against the Dutch on 22nd and 24th June. Following that, they will head to Ireland for the 2016 World Twenty20 qualifiers. Given their natural flair in playing the limited-overs game, one would expect them to finish in the top six and book a berth in the first round of the tournament proper in India.

   Here’s looking forward to a lot more from this immensely talented bunch of cricketers who are no doubt on their way towards becoming the next big success story of the game.

Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/icc-intercontinental-cup-2015-17/engine/match/870879.html

Guest Section – Sledging : Nothing official about it

  The Gentleman’s Game has come a long way from the days of Bodyline. Today, due to cricketers travelling across the world and plying their trade in various T20 leagues, the contests are rarely as heated as they used to be. Since the game play has simmered down, the purists are now often taking issue with on-field sledging. 

  As per the Oxford Dictionary, sledging is defined as ‘making taunting or teasing remarks to an opposing player, especially a batsman, in order to disturb their concentration’, and I for one do not really see why cricketers can have a problem with it.

  Sledging has been a part of the game since times immemorial and has provided some enthralling moments over the years. Who can forget Steve Waugh sledging Curtly Ambrose at Trinidad in 1995 that made Ambrose bowl one of the fiercest spells in history!

  Cricket unlike football or rugby is a non-contact sport, so a little bit of sledging or trash talk should not be considered taboo. It often enlivens many a drab day’s play. 

  When one talks of sledging among the current crop of players, David Warner is the first name that comes to mind. Martin Crowe, the legendary Kiwi, recently condemned Warner for his “thuggish behavior”.The likes of Warner and Virat Kohli are considered the bad boys of the game due to a few altercations with fellow cricketers.

Sledging      The cover of a book on sledging by Gershon Portnoi (source – dailytelegraph.com.au)

  However, I am of the opinion that there are certain players who wear their hearts on their sleeves and if authorities curb their aggressive style, then the game will be shorn of its vibrancy.

  Cricket has been blessed with characters like Merv Hughes, Malcolm Marshall and Dennis Lillee to name a few and if they had gone on to go about their task without the odd word, then cricket would be no different than chess.

  After the last Ashes series in 2013-14, James Anderson described sledging as a ‘skill’, one that he considers a key aspect of his game and I wholeheartedly agree with him. To be a good cricketer one requires both physical and mental discipline and being involved in a healthy verbal duel can enhance ones’ mental toughness.

  To quote an example, even the great Rahul Dravid, who never himself indulged in such exchanges on the field, has gone on record to say that sledging from opponents not only strengthened his resolve but also brought out the best in him. Dravid thrived on challenges and gave it back by talking with his bat, thus making for an absorbing contest.

  I believe that sledging is an art which when done well can be as effective as a yorker at 150 kmph. Just a bit of advice for the officials sitting in their air-conditioned offices in Dubai – please focus on important things like the size of the bats and leave the banter to the cricketers on the field. 

  After all, it is a good ball or a poor shot, and not the words, that should cost a batsman his wicket. A few colourful exchanges just shows how passionate these cricketers are and only adds flavour to the game that is becomes quite tedious to watch when the going gets dull.