The extent to which sledging has deteriorated in the current test series in Australia is abominable. Australian team has shown almost no regard for sportsmanship and has been behaving like amateurs crying foul when losing. Steve Waugh once said in an interview, “I think the definition of sledging varies. It is how you are brought up in Australia; it's our nature. That is how we play our sport; we always talk.”
Well, if such an explanation can be dished out as the reason for the Australian team’s behavior, then it is even more worrisome. Because sports is not about looking to brow beat someone. That can be played with two people sitting across a table. When you are out there on the field, what matters is your performance, not your ability to psychologically influence the opponent by saying something offensive. If that had to be the case, imagine the scenario when the batsman walks out on the field and passes through the players of the opponent team on his way to the pitch. The opponent team would turn it into an expletive fest, hoping for the batsman to lash out in anger and lose his cool, in turn affecting his game.
So, the excuse given by Steve Waugh does not hold water. If a tribal person who lives through hunting by using spears gets selected in country’s cricket team, is it okay for him to bring his spear and the hunting attitude into the ground? Certainly not. The cultural habit is not an excuse for offending someone. You just cannot offend someone and get away by saying that it is how people behave in your country and there is nothing to take offence.
This becomes especially more important in case of international matches where different nations are competing against each other. In the recent case of Tim Paine, Australian captain saying to Ashwin that he has more Indian friends than him and much more does not even fall into the category of “cheap shot”. It is way down the drain of ridicule worthiness and pity. Besides, when a captain behaves is such reckless way, it rubs off on the team as well and the other players also start acting in the same way.
The riposte from Ashwin was very apt and gentlemanly compared to the immature high school gibe from Paine. It only goes on prove the state of mind of Paine, and his agony out bursting from the smell of a loss. Although he apologized for his behavior, it is not something that can be taken away or cured by an apology. It tends to linger a lot longer and affects the spirit of the game even for the remaining matches to be played.