Agnew hits out at ‘sledging’


Published: Tuesday 13th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Jonathan Agnew believes Australia have failed to act on their best intentions, to abandon aggressive ‘sledging’, since the death of Phillip Hughes.

BBC cricket correspondent Agnew has voiced his disappointment at what he senses was an opportunity missed to improve players’ behaviour during Australia’s home Test series against India.

Agnew quotes Australia captain Michael Clarke, who subsequently sat out the majority of the India series because of a hamstring injury, as he reacted to the tragedy which took the life of his former team-mate in November.

Hughes was hit on his neck, below the line of his protective helmet, by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield match on November 25 and died of his injuries three days before his 26th birthday.

Clarke, his and Hughes’ Australia colleagues and hundreds more from the world of cricket attended a funeral service broadcast around the world.

Agnew recalls Clarke’s eulogy, in which he said: “Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.”

Flashpoints during Australia’s series victory over India have had echoes of similarly unsavoury incidents during last winter’s Ashes trouncing of England.

Agnew is unimpressed.

“Michael Clarke said very clearly that Hughes’ memory would run through the team, and would be in the way they would play their cricket,” he told the Radio Times.

“Well, I haven’t seen evidence of that.

“I really hoped that out of this tragedy might have come some good.

“But the players haven’t behaved any better, and I think that’s a real disappointment.”

Agnew regrets that the curse of sledging remains.

“It’s all you hear on a cricket field – ‘Knock his head off, knock his head off’,” he said.

“Cricket has gone too far. It shouldn’t be posturing, abusing.

“I know there has been a lot of bad blood between Australia and India for some years now, but it was an opportunity.

“I have that Michael Clarke speech tucked away ready to throw at the Australians.

“If this is really how you feel, then let’s see how you play.”

Agnew acknowledges the continued need for aggressive bowling, but has no time for the sledging that often goes with it

“The bouncer shouldn’t be banned. Hitting batsmen, I’m afraid, is part of the game,” he said.

“But it’s the histrionics, the nonsense, the prancing, the in-your-face nastiness. It’s become accepted, and actually it’s not acceptable at all.

“The comments Michael Clarke made, I thought, summed up how people felt at the time about the way that cricket should be played.

“The onus is on Australia to lead the way, and for others to grasp the opportunity … we owe it to Phillip Hughes.”

Published: Tuesday 13th January 2015 by The News Editor

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