Stamping out sledging with fines and bans

What will you do when a task you are performing goes horribly wrong? I would mutter a curse and then try to do it better next time. Perhaps, if I am very angry, I may utter a swear word or two along the way.

Pity our cricketers then – the men in coloured clothing who are fighting tooth and nail for the World Cup. In the heat of the battle, they don’t even have the liberty to shout a swear word or two, even when the rival batsman slam your well disguised slower one to the mid-wicket fence. Or your attempted pull goes awry and the top edge narrowly falls short of a fielder.

Curse silently. Curse in your mind. And curse in a language that is foreign to the big boss who is watching closely.

Express your feelings loudly, let out a swear word or two, and the boss will act through his representatives who were paragons of virtue during their playing time. People handpicked for their calm demeanour and deference for rules will swoop down like vultures – and before you can say s....t, your match fee would have landed in the pocket of the big boss.

When the International Cricket Council stated before the start of the World Cup that it would crackdown on sledging, no one would have imagined that it would approach the task with this seriousness. Sure, things were getting a bit out of hand. Sure men like David Warner were frequently overstepping the line. But a hefty fine for cursing yourself? Now that is called strict policing.

“First offence you'll likely end up with a fine, which no player likes,” ICC Chief Executive Dave Richardson said before the World Cup.

“Repeat offence ... some players already sitting with some offences behind their name, will be punished with a suspension. We're not expecting too much trouble. Hopefully, those who get a little bit excited on occasions will keep their calm. Let's leave it with the match officials, they've been directed to take a firmer approach and a more consistent approach," he said. 

And they are doing it promptly, efficiently, ruthlessly. The World Cup is barely ten days old, and already, several players have fallen foul of the ICC regulations. West Indian Darren Sammy and Ireland’s John Mooney were among the first to join the list. 

Both were fined 30 percent of their match fee for swearing during their World Cup match by referee Chris Broad -- the Englishman who once famously smashed the stumps after being clean-bowled during a Test match against Australia; the man who refused to leave the crease despite being given out by an umpire during a Test match in Pakistan.

Both Sammy and Mooney were better off than Darren Bravo, the West Indies middle-order batsman. Bravo, who suffered a hamstring injury and was also hit on his head by a throw from a fielder during the game against Pakistan, was reprimanded for using an “audible obscenity whilst batting” by match referee David Boon.

Audible. That is the key word here. You see, there are kids watching and with the stump microphones picking up even the whispers from around the crease, you wouldn’t want them to pick up the latest swear words in the cricketing lexicon, would you?

Of course, the ICC statements, while detailing the punishments, do not give out the actual words uttered by the cricketers. One certainly wouldn’t expect them to do that but one wonders whether the sport’s governing body has made a list of such words which it deems are inappropriate on a cricketing field.

Busy arranging matches and tackling problems like match-fixing, the ICC, certainly, would not have found time to undertake such a task. As such, a suggestion wouldn’t certainly be out of place from Bollywood, which has close connections with the cricketing world.

A look into the recent circular issued by the censor board chairman Pahlaj Nihlani, banning certain phrases and words in movies, could also help matters. Before a series or a tournament, ICC could consider publishing a booklet detailing the banned words and the punishments they carry. For example, $500 for a *@#* or $1000 for a *@#*!+#.

And if the players still refuse to learn, the ICC, like our censor board, could start issuing certificates to matches, depending on the players and the teams that feature in the games. For instance, a match involving the worst offenders, the Australians, could be given a Parental Guidance certificate.

And if Warner is playing, an 18-plus tag will be inevitable and mandatory. This way, cricket will eventually become a clean game, with all matches carrying Universal certificates, fit for watching even by little children. Howzzaaat?!

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