With its recent warning about sanctions for
players who ignore the “spirit of the game,” is the ICC naively trying to fit
sportspeople like Shane Warne, Kevin Pietersen, and Jacques Kallis into the
ideal of players like, umm, Graham Yallop and Bruce Laird? OK, maybe, the Don.

Let’s not forget these are highly
competitive, professional sportspeople playing for their countries and, not
unimportantly, huge money. So is it any surprise, just a couple of days before
a highly anticipated Test series, that Australia and South Africa are carrying on
like a couple of blokes bragging about whose car is fastest? Not really. The
real question is, how much harm does that do the sport of cricket?

From the media’s point of view, none. It’s
all good copy. Shane Warne saying the Proteas will need to see a psychologist
when the Aussies are finished with them is entertaining. For the ICC to warn
past and present, to tone down their banter seems a ham-fisted way of
maintaining order.

Ricky Ponting seems to agree. He’s told
Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath to keep up their “verbal war games
against the South Africans, seemingly in defiance of the warnings from the

Some, like former Australian fast bowler
Jeff Thomson, think the “focus on player behaviour on and off the pitch is
taking all the fun out of the sport.”
Well, yes and no. No-one wants a repeat of the off-field incidents that have
plagued rugby league, and to a lesser degree AFL. No one wants to see
Shahid Afridi doctoring the pitch.

But you’d be hard pressed finding too many
cricket fans out there willing to discourage Shane Warne from using colourful
language like “psychologist.” Maybe the ICC should lighten up and acknowledge
the realities of the modern game – or have we just transgressed the sledging
line in the sand?