It’s been the hot topic in cricket this past week: players trying to
get a mental advantage over their opponents by publicly niggling and
needling each other ahead of a series. The ICC calls it sledging, the
players call it banter.

From an outsider’s point of view, it has all seemed harmless enough.
Which makes the ICC’s decision to intervene and warn everyone that they
have to play nice with each other seem a little unnecessary. Then
again, it’s fairly typical of the ICC that it chooses to get narky
about this matter while sitting by idly and toothlessly on so many
other big issues (Zimbabwe anyone?).

But yesterday came the biggest sledge – the most damning put-down – of them all. And it came direct from Cricket Australia.

CA chose yesterday – the eve of the Test series against South Africa – to hold a press conference excitedly unveiling the program
for next year’s Ashes series. They warned everyone to book their
tickets early, saying it would be the country’s biggest sporting event
since the Olympics, which might come as a surprise to those who
witnessed the Rugby World Cup, or who are preparing for the
Commonwealth Games, but that’s another matter. They announced that the sacred Ashes urn would be brought Down Under too.

But the Ashes tour is nearly 12 months away. We start a Test series
against South Africa today. Isn’t it hugely insulting to the South
Africans to be effectively launching next year’s season before this one
has even begun? Doesn’t it send a message that Cricket Australia
doesn’t rate this South African series, that it considers it merely
part of the warm-up to the real stuff next year?

Any way you look at it, it feels like a slight on the South Africans,
and they have every right to feel more than a little miffed.

The Australian cricketers would want to make sure they don’t get as far
ahead of themselves as their governing body seems to have done.