Magazine article The Spectator

Bring Back Chivalry

Magazine article The Spectator

Bring Back Chivalry

Article excerpt

APRIL. Across the country odoriferous cricket bags are being opened, the daffodil covers are out as the 1998 Wisden arrives, and the voice of Cassandra, annually incarnate in the form of that fat yellow book, is heard in the land. And as spring digs in, so the players of Our Great Game polish up the latest insults for sledging.

The etymology of 'sledging' is supposedly from sledgehammer. An Australian cricketer used the Anglo-Saxon term for copulation when there were ladies present, and was rebuked, `You're as subtle as a sledgehammer.' The term was shifted to the established practice of strategic on-field abuse of the opposition: words, uttered too softly for the umpire's ears, intended to make the batsman feel unwelcome.

'I was up your missis last night' - that sort of thing. It's what cricket's all about. `We've got to get a bit of nastiness into our game,' said Nasser Hussain, in his position as England vice-captain. `In Australia, even in grade cricket they are abusing you, rucking you, and making it clear they want you back in the pavilion pretty quick.'

These lines are quoted in the aforementioned daffodil book by Andrew Longmore, writing on a theme which the older generation of cricket-watchers may have heard of, namely chivalry. Longmore, a person who had sledged your own correspondent in pressboxes across the world, naturally begins his review of the chivalric year with the famous encounter between Marlborough and Radley. The row was about sledging. I am not sure what public schoolboys sledge each other about - I was up your fag last night? - but Marlborough, feeling themselves more sledged against than sledging, batted bloody-mindedly on and on, taking 68.3 overs to score 170, leaving their opponents 18 overs in which to reply. The schools have suspended sporting relations.

The Australians beat England at cricket. …

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