Jimmy Anderson. Photo: AP
Sledging in the modern game can be a useful weapon for teams looking to unnerve batsmen and score a psychological advantage.
The game is weighted in favour of the batsmen, so you cannot blame bowlers and fielders for using any little extra edge to help them take wickets. There is a time and place for sledging. A batsman is at his best when he is concentrating on the present, looking at that red ball and focusing on nothing else. If you can take his mind away from the red ball, then you are starting to win the battle.
The two best sledgers in that great Australian team were Shane Warne and Steve Waugh. They were very clever at constantly reminding players of past dismissals or that Ian Botham or Mike Atherton had written something negative about their game. Australia were playing the psychological card. They knew a batsman would be vulnerable if his focus slipped and they were thinking of the past or worrying that another failure might cost them their place in the team. That is top-level sport. Get on with it.
The hardest bowler I faced was Glenn McGrath and he used words on the field which were completely opposite to the character of the real man. It is only since retiring that I have got to know him and realised what a nice guy he is. But, like many bowlers, he had "white-line fever". When he played the game, he changed completely.
It afflicts a lot of fast bowlers. I played with Steve Kirby at Yorkshire and some of the things he said on the field were a disgrace. He had no respect for the batsmen and would mouth off, whether it was Atherton, Steve Waugh or some young kid on debut. Off the field, Steve is the nicest bloke in the world.
Fast bowlers use it as a mechanism for getting up for the challenge and the fight and as long as it does not become personal abuse, I have no problem with it.
When you hear comments like Michael Clarke's to James Anderson in Brisbane last year or Jimmy calling MS Dhoni a "fat ----" then the umpires have to step in. Jimmy will know he was wrong and he will not want his name linked with those kind of words. He has young children and he will not want them reading those comments in years to come.
But I imagine England will carry on regardless at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Dhoni will be reminded that his technique is all over the place when facing Jimmy. England have Shikhar Dhawan on toast and as soon as he comes in, the slip cordon will be reminding him of his technical problems.
You have to cope with that at Test level. In fact, I found the abuse at Test level a lot less than at county level or in the leagues. At international level it is harder to get away with it because the umpires are stronger and step in, and you can be reported to the match referee.
But in county cricket it can be a bit nastier and personal. You play against each other more often so you find out more about a player's character and what upsets them. Also, gossip travels around the circuit. If a player is upset by a certain remark, it will get around and he will cop it again and again. It can be a cruel environment.
At Old Trafford, I would say to Jimmy: Carry on but do not give India an excuse to report you again. He is winning England the series and the political tension between the teams is high, so he is vulnerable if he blows his top again and gets involved in a needless spat.
The best bowlers channel the aggression in the right way. You knew you were on top of McGrath if he started losing his rag.
At Lord's, it was clear England were unsettled by the allegations that came out of the Trent Bridge Test. They were very fragile and stand-offish out in the middle. I think it really got to Jimmy. But at the Ageas Bowl he was back to being the Jimmy of old.
Anderson is like McGrath in the sense that he hates conceding runs. They swear because they hate being hit for fours. It is a little like Geoffrey Boycott. He hated not scoring runs and would get very angry if he made a low score.
But the difference for a batsman is that he generally loses his temper within the four walls of the dressing room. He throws his bat and carries on but nobody, apart from team-mates, sees what has happened. When a bowler has a bad day, he is out in the middle and it is a very public experience. It is physically hard work and you can see why they lose their temper.
That is when a batsman can come back with a chirp of his own. Banter is part of the game and if you cannot take an opponent questioning your game then you are not cut out for international cricket. If you personally abuse someone for who they are, or use physical force, then the coach and captain must step in.
There has been a lot of talk from the England camp about the personal criticism and abuse Alastair Cook has taken this summer. But you cannot complain about that if the team are delivering even more abuse to an opponent. It is a fine line.
The Daily Telegraph