Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dressing Room Dialect

Cricket, once home of the wittiest banter sport has seen, is now often just a place for abuse. It seems to have followed society, as our good old friend Thorpster points out here in his latest article.

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Athers...recently the subject of some not so witty banter

This week the reputation of sport has once again been publicly dragged through the muddy puddles that represent the summer of 2012.  Anton Ferdinand and John Terry legally slugged it out in court 1 of the newly constructed and shiny Westminster Magistrates Court which sits just "this side" of the flyover on the Edgware Road. Magistrates and Crown Courts are no strangers to lawyers with double barelled names swearing when describing affrays or confrontations between the courts usual clientele, and the Old Bill. Police witnesses giving evidence of will be often be asked what a villain said to them, or someone they were confronting, and reply with a phrase, "fuck you, you c***", or something similar.

But not many court hearings have heard exchanges with such relentless and vitriolic language. Frankly it shamed football and sport in general. But do we face the same problem in cricket? One of the first articles on this site was about the age old subject of sledging. Personally I never really enjoyed sledging, and my only reaction when on the receiving end, was to laugh at it. As Michael Atherton, recently labelled "a fucking prick" himself, says in last Saturday's Times "cricket is often cited as an example of sporting language that is witty and erudite." But is it really? Again in the sledging article Dan, cited a noticeable step change from an amusing comment such as "Don't use up all the hot water in the showers mate" to straight abuse such as "Fuck off, you're shit".

Cricket has some well known expletive filled outbursts, such as that aimed at DR Jardine on the infamous body line tour "Which one you bastards, called this bastard and bastard?", John Embureys description of his injured back "the fucking, fuckers, fucking, fucked" through to Flintoff's recent anti Atherton tirade. If on field language traded during a county or international cricket match was subject to the scrutiny of this weeks trial, would it be any less embarrassing for cricket than it has been for the countries' other national sport?

Image Detail stranger to industrial language

Cricket is under more scrutiny than ever with more televised games, more intrusive cameras and microphones and more public and media interest. As a fast bowler tears in and  drops on short watches the opening batsman hop around and follows up with a verbal volley, we should remember a nation of kids is watching. In court, Ray "Butch" Wilkins described it in a footballing concept, as verbal grief. My concern is not the grown men exchanging abuse but the influence this has on the young cricketers of the nation, which are a large part of the audience cricket seeks to cultivate. As with football, the kids mimic the actions of their heroes and behaviour spreads quickly. In the late 90s I was shocked (alright surprised) by the language tossed about in Division One of the Herts League. My analysis after a few years was that the major perpetrators and catalysts was the large number of overseas players from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that far outnumbered those in divisions Two and Three where I had previously played my cricket. But it spread quickly as youngsters at those clubs who hero worshipped the overseas player who had played pro cricket at home, shot from the lip.

Unlike Tulisa, Thorpster isn't scrutinised by differing camera angles

Those of you who know me will be aware, as a lad bought up in North London and having followed Arsenal home and away for 25 years, I have used, and been on the receiving end of  plenty of bad language over the years. As a travelling Gooner I spent many a day in the North being told to, "fuck off you Cockney Wanker" and that was usually from the local constabulary along with the favourite "fooking shut it till you get into the ground cockneys". As an opening batsman having played a decent level for 20 years I also got on the end of a few verbals as well as half volleys! But I am not a role model being watched by millions with cameras zooming in for close ups from all sorts of angles, and replayed over and over, unlike Tulisa!

Obviously bad language is not a problem in the same way as match fixing or corruption in general, but in an age where cricket competes for audiences with many other sports both live at the venue and on TV, and also competes with play stations and other computer based activities, I asked the middle stumps followers is such industrial language, when traded in the professional game, acceptable or abhorrent?


  1. A friend used to coach a junior football team that drew many of its players from a rough/underprivileged area of Manchester. Weekly he was summonsed to the league disciplinary committee to account for his players' offensive language. The defence he developed was, 'if this is the language they hear all their waking hours, how can I stop them talking like that for an hour and a half each Sunday?'

    Similarly, can we expect cricket to be different to the curse-filled world around it? My personal dislike is the aggressive address of umpires/referees, which I would like to see challenged at all levels.

    For a more esoteric discussion of cricket language, have a look at on my blog Declaration Game.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Bad language is everywhere I am from a law enforcement background so industrial language is part of every day life. But we shouldnt encourage kids to get involved at such an early stage. I try not to swear in front of my son who is 6 but hear people effing and blinding around their kids every day. I agree with you that agression towards referees and umpires in sport is abhorrent particularly at club level when they do it for basically nothing. Just before I left London and stopped playing I got stuck into a kid who was going at an umpire. I am pleased to say that kid now seems a lot more reserved. I was no angel and had some spats with umpires but if I felt I overstepped the mark I apologised afterwards. I think club cricket was a lot more fun even at the top level back in the 90s, before the mass invasion of overseas players and imported culture of agression. My problem was I wasn't competitive enough as to me winning wasn't and isn't everything. Fun, having a a laugh and enjoying the company of team mates, opposition and umpires to me as more important.