Cricket and sledging – where is the line?

David Warner was fined over a confrontation with India's Rohit Sharma.

Cricket is a game like no other. An aspect of it is the ‘art’ of sledging. Famous Test matches have been won and lost on the back of witty, tactful one-liners delivered at the right time.

The recent Test series between Australia and India however, changed sledging – for the worst.

The Australians attacked the visitors from the get go. The David Warners and Brad Haddins were unleashed, with Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli one of the main targets.

From purely a sporting aspect, these confronting tactics worked to plan with Australia winning the series. But with each close of play, players were asked if they had “crossed the line”.

This series moved the metaphorical line to a risky point in which aggression and a will to win can easily become insulting and racist. The line should come well before that point.

At the MCG last Sunday, in Australia’s ODI against the Indians, Warner was the instigator of a altercation with Indian batsman, Rohit Sharma. The Australian was seen to be blasting Sharma to “speak English!”.

This is not acceptable.

This is a low point for Australian and Indian cricket not reached since ‘Monkeygate’ in 2008 where Harbhajan Singh was eventually banned for three matches for racial abuse directed towards Australia’s Andrew Symonds.

Warner was find half his match fee and forced to admit that he should not have confronted Sharma. That fine would be in the ballpark of $3-6000 according to News Limited’s Robert Craddock, which is negligible considering Warner would earn multiple millions a year as one of cricket’s global superstars.

Warner has been the aggressor in a number of social media conflicts and in June 2013 he got into a drunken brawl that led to him punching English batsman Joe Root in the face.

For me, David Warner’s average of 48 and 15 international 100s mean nothing. He has embarrassed Cricket Australia on the aforementioned occasions and with these latest sledges he is disgracing the Australian public.

Former New Zealand cricket captain Martin Crowe went on record last week saying that Warner is the most juvenile cricketer he has seen on a cricket field and he also labeled his on-field antics as “thuggish”.

A forced apology means little on the first instance, so on this occasion it means effectively nothing.

Warner is a role-model. Regardless of whether or not you think sportspeople should be role-models because while there is a 11-year-old kid in his backyard saying “I want to play like Warner” he is one.

Warner is not the only one crossing humane boundaries but his has no doubt made himself the most prominent.

The answer? Match bans, mid-play dismissals and longer term suspensions. The judges being the umpires, the match referee and the ICC. Players do not want to miss games and teams certainly do not want players missing matches.

Ideally Cricket Australia would show the leadership to suspend Warner “in house” but in the world of high priced sport, the chances of that are slim.

An area Cricket Australia can intervene is with coach Darren Lehmann who has come on record saying that he encourages a fiery brand of cricket and that playing aggressively is the only way the players can perform at their peek. Boof, the name now seems appropriate.

In the meantime, the tightrope will continue to be walked with very serious consequences for cricket, as a game, if a foot is misplaced.

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