An Early Plea in 1990: Ban Verbal Assaults within the Cricket Field

Michael Roberts

Sin-Bin for Verbal Intimidation” is the title of a plea in an article presented by me in Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, in 2006, pp. 98-102. It embodied a set of arguments that I have held since 1990 wherein I contended that (A) the practices pursued in rugby and soccer should be introduced in cricket and (B) not legitimized by arcane arguments which  refer to instances of clever banter on the cricket field to cover-up the instances of abusive intimidation that seek advantage for the fielding side — in effect permitting  verbal acts that would face charges or cause fights if they were expressed  in a pub or on the street.

Happily, the  ICC’s recent adoption of the MCC recommendation for “penalties” on this score in effect introduces the practice of sin-binning, though — typically conservative and circumspect – they avoid  the term.

“Sin Bin” is a sharp rebuke and is a better label than “penalty.” Likewise, we should avoid the term “sledging” and identify the acts for what they (mostly) are: “abuse” seeking to disconcert a batsman and give the fielding side the edge.

As it happens my essays in the 200os was rooted in an argument I had raised way back in 1989/1990.** The crux of that argument ran thus: verbal abuse was then a tactic at  which the cricketers of the Western world were more adept because it demanded skills in English and a socio-cultural background versed in badinage  and verbal intimidation. In brief, it was a form of Western imperialism. In the process it would force the Asian cricketers to become a clone, namely an abusive Western cricketer

This has come to pass. Kohli is no better than Warner or Wade. Or, rather, he is as terrible as both those blokes…. and a long line of cricketers going back to Ian Chappell, Tony Greig and others in the 1970s.

So, here, I place before you two tiny steps that I took in 1990 … with absolutely no impact. I presented (1) my thoughts in an article entitled “Abuse: Western forms of domination in world cricket” that was printed in an obscure rag known as The Sri Lankan which was published by a few enthusiasts in Melbourne in August 1990; and (2) sent a typed  copy of this article to Colin Cowdrey in his capacity as President of the ICC on 4 February 1990. The receipt of this letter was duly acknowledged on the 20th March 1990 (see illustrations at the end).

Needless to say, that was the last of that. It produced no action.

Thankfully, other currents have directed the MCC and ICC to introduce some restrictions on the abusive intimidation that is common on the cricket pitch — in rules that will come into effect on 1st October 2017. However, they are still pussy-footing. They carefully avoid the terms “verbal abuse” and “sin bin.”

They have also – quite  carefully – steered away from a simple act that would deter intimidating tactics around the cricket pitch: the insistence that stump-audios are turned full-on so that the world can discover what “beautiful sportsmen” adorn our cricketing ranges.

** I note here that in 1989/90 the touring Sri Lankan team captained by Arjuna  Ranatunga spent quite a spell in Adelaide playing “country cricket”during the Commonwealth Games (that interfered with their more serious set of matches). During this spell they were hosted by the Claessens and others and I met them often – with chats during a dinner for Arjuna and Ruwan Kalpage at the house of Tilak and Dawn Gunasekera being especially enlightening about the  abusive pressures that they were being subject to even in country games with district sides. My original August 1990 article in The Sri Lankan is reproduced as “Bat, ball and foul mouth in cricket” in Essaying Cricket, 2006: 1-3. 




Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006, ISBN  955 12566-26-9


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3 responses to “An Early Plea in 1990: Ban Verbal Assaults within the Cricket Field

  1. hi Micheal, we have selected your blog for a nelumyaya 3rd blog ceremony award (English Category) which will be on 25th of March. Please let us know whether you accept that.

  2. Pingback: “The Potential Kill with the Bat” — The Pot says to the Kettle | Thuppahi's Blog

  3. Pingback: The ICC is Imbecile: Verbal Assaults permitted within Cricket Field | Thuppahi's Blog

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