While loitering around M G Road a few months back, I chanced upon a secondhand book shop, where I picked up a copy of The Art of Sledging by J Harold. This 120 page book is a delightful read, and takes you around an hour at the maximum to finish. It’s full of piquant anecdotes surrounding verbal sportsmanship in the Gentleman’s game.
Though a pacifist by nature, I have seen no harm in some friendly or unfriendly banter, in professional sports. I have seen some senior cricketers, notably Sunil Gavaskar who have been very vocal against sledging. I believe that’s being a bit sissy, and unless the verbal banter crosses certain limits, I see no harm in a bit of over-indulgence.
I have been sledged more often than not on the cricket field, at work, while tackling traffic on Bangalore streets, online, and just about everywhere. Over the years, my own vocabulary has improved. So much so that now I know precisely how to give back, if needed.
Sledging is an art that indeed needs to be mastered. Practitioners of the art have managed to irritate, distract, and enrage their opponents to the point of giving up positions of advantage like lose their wickets in a cricket match.
I must confess that I have used the art of sledging for my own profit while playing Yahoo! Chess, occasionally to drive an opponent or two mad. Yes, it works!
Let me leave you with one of the best anecdotes from the book, which I recommend, especially if you are a connoisseur of cricket, or just want to be humoured. This one is on the late Fed Trueman, the legendary English fast bowler.
No one was safe from Freddie’s sardonic wit – not even his team mates. A beautiful delivery from Trueman caught the outside edge of an opponent’s bat and flew directly to Raman Subba Row fielding at slip. As Trueman watched, the ball went right through the fielder’s legs and to the boundary at third man. Fred didn’t say a word.
At the end of the over, Subba Row apologised meekly:
‘Sorry Fred, I should’ve kept my legs together.
Trueman replied in characteristic fashion:
‘Not you, son. Your mother should’ve!’