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Is sledging part of sport?

The history of sport has seen far uglier, and many more creative taunts than what Michael Clarke hurled at the Gabba on the weekend. But is it sportsmanship or just abusive?

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Most verbal banter on the cricket field is banal, predictable and dumb. Steve Waugh labelled it "mental disintegration", but little uttered among cricketers rises far above the level of crass, profane abuse. So the few on-field statements that are smart and amusing soon percolate through the cricket community like exotic urban legends. The reliability of such stories are questionable – a famous Viv Richards anecdote was later attributed to Ricky Ponting, and Steve Waugh later denied that he had told opponent Herschelle Gibbs that he had "just dropped the World Cup" after the South African muffed a catch during a 1999 qualifying match.

So the following compilation should be read as pop culture's unreliable version of colourful cricket utterances, possibly apocryphal, rather than the bible-sworn truth of actual conversations. Given the level of chirp in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba, let's hope the combatants aspire to the mythical wit of some of these offerings, true or not. On the evidence of these quips, it appears it is often the aggressor who comes off second best if the target has a quick enough wit.

There was little humour to the exchange between Michael Clarke and James Andersonat the end of day four of the First Test match.

There was little humour to the exchange between Michael Clarke and James Anderson at the end of day four of the First Test match. Photo: Getty Images

ROD MARSH AND IAN BOTHAM

Rod Marsh supposedly once welcomed England all-rounder Botham to the crease with the following: "So how's your wife and my kids?"

Botham replied: "The wife's fine, but the kids are retarded."

Aussie quick Merv Hughes loved on-field discourse.

Aussie quick Merv Hughes loved on-field discourse. Photo: Reuters

MERV HUGHES AND ROBIN SMITH

During the second Ashes Test at Lord's in 1989 chatty Australian fast bowler Hughes said to Robin Smith after he played and missed: "You can't f---ing bat". After the next ball, which Smith hit to the fence, the batsman replied: "Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can't f---ing bat and you can't f---ing bowl."

JAMES ORMOND AND MARK WAUGH

The original incarnation of Shane Warne was not backwards in coming forward. Click for more photos

Cricket's sledging hall of infamy

The original incarnation of Shane Warne was not backwards in coming forward. Photo: Rocco Fazzari

Portly England journeyman James Ormond (two Tests) might have become one of the least-remembered international cricketers ever, but for this exchange during his only Test against Australia in 2001 at the Oval. Arriving at the crease with his team 300 behind, Ormond was greeted by Steve Waugh's accomplished brother Mark. "F--- me, look who it is," Waugh said. "Mate, what are you doing out here? There's no way you're good enough to play for England." Ormond's retort? "Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my family."

SHANE WARNE AND DARYLL CULLINAN

The legendary leg-spinner never stopped talking. He had a hold on the South African right-hander, but here was one Warne delivery Cullinan hit back strongly. As Cullinan came to the wicket, Warne told him that he had been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate the Proteas. "Looks like you spent it eating," Cullinan replied to the pre-makeover Warne.

VIV RICHARDS AND GREG THOMAS

West Indian batting superstar Richards was daunted by no fast bowler. In an English county game, Glamorgan's Greg Thomas spoke up after the Master Blaster had played and missed at a couple of deliveries. "It's red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering," Thomas said helpfully. Richards smashed the next Thomas delivery out of the ground and into a nearby river, then said: "Greg, you know what it looks like, now go and find it." The same tale was later ascribed to Australian batting star Ricky Ponting and South African fast-bowler Shaun Pollock.

MERV HUGHES AND VIV RICHARDS

During a Test match in the Caribbean, burly moustachioed warrior Hughes was attempting his usual intimidation, staring at Richards after following through. Richards offered the following cultural advice: "This is my island, my culture. Don't you be staring at me. In my culture we just bowl." Hughes saved his response until he claimed the champion's wicket. "In my culture we just say f--- off.".

MERV HUGHES AND GRAHAM GOOCH

England opening batsman and captain Graham Gooch had played and missed at several Hughes deliveries, but survived. "I'll get you a piano instead – see if you can play that," Hughes offered.

GRAHAM GOOCH AND MIKE GATTING

"If it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him," Gooch said after teammate Gatting had been bowled by Shane Warne's "ball of the century".

DENNIS LILLEE AND MIKE GATTING

Legendary fast bowler Dennis Lillee supposedly halted his run-up during an Ashes Test when about to bowl to Gatting. He told the well-fed middle-order batsman: "Hell, Gatt, move out of the way. I can't see the stumps."

JAVED MIANDAD AND MERV HUGHES

Brilliant but enraging Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad called the Aussie quick "a fat bus conductor" during one of many spirited exchanges he enjoyed with antipodean fast-bowlers. When Hughes dismissed Miandad soon after, he ran past the right-hander demanding, "Tickets please!"

IAN HEALY AND ARJUNA RANATUNGA

Wicketkeepers seem to feel a responsibility to be annoying. When Australian gloveman Ian Healy observed Warne trying to tempt the chubby Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga out of his crease, he advocated "putting a Mars Bar on a good length".

GLENN MCGRATH AND EDDO BRANDES

This sledge married two familiar tropes of the genre: dietary advice and marital critique. After the Zimbabwe batsman played and missed, McGrath asked: "Oi, Brandes, why are you so fat?" Brandes ensured the next delivery would be sharper by replying: "Cos every time I sleep with your wife she gives me a biscuit."

IAN HEALY AND MICHAEL ATHERTON

England opening batsman Atherton refused to walk after a loud appeal for a catch behind off his bat. Healy walked by, calling Atherton a "f---ing cheat". The polite Englishman replied: "When in Rome, dear boy."

FRED TRUEMAN #1

During an Ashes Test in the 1960s, the great English fast bowler was fielding near the gate to the pavilion. As a new batsman entered the playing arena, he turned to shut the gate. "Don't bother son, you won't be out there long enough," Trueman said.

FRED TRUEMAN #2

A young batsman, clean bowled by Trueman said: "That was a very good ball, Fred." Trueman replied: "Aye, and it was wasted on you."

FRED TRUEMAN #3

Australia was pressing for victory at the end of a Test match, with tail-ender Trueman at the crease, and much of the team was crowded around the batsman, projecting their shadows on to the wicket. Trueman announced: "Ere, if you lads don't back off, I'll appeal for bad light!”

FRED TRUEMAN #4

On the tour of Australia in 1962-63, England Test player the Reverend David Sheppard dropped several catches. "Kid yourself it's Sunday, Rev," Trueman suggested, "and keep your hands together."

FRED TRUEMAN #5

Fred Trueman was bowling and induced an edge to first slip but the ball went between Raman Subba Row's legs. The fieldsman apologised to Trueman, saying "I should've kept my legs together, Fred". "So should your mother," Fred fired back.

UNNAMED BODYLINE WIT

There is a story that controversial England skipper Douglas Jardine went to the Australian dressing room after a day's play to demand an apology for a player calling him a bastard on the pitch. The call went up: "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard!"

MALCOLM MARSHALL AND DAVID BOON

The frightening West Indian fast-bowler Malcolm Marshall gave Aussie top-order stalwart David Boon options after he had played and missed. "Now David, are you going to get out now or am I going to have to bowl around the wicket and kill you?"

VIV RICHARDS AND SUNIL GAVASKAR

The great Indian opener suffered a drop in form and demoted himself to number four in the order. He gained little respite, with Marshall dismissing Anshuman Gaekwad and Dilip Vengsarkar for ducks to make the score 2/0. As Gavaskar came to the crease Viv Richards observed: "Man, it don't matter where you come in to bat, the score is still zero."

SHANE WARNE AND DARREN BERRY

In a New South Wales v Victoria Sheffield Shield match, Warne goaded his Australian teammate, impatient Blues opening batsman Slater. When the restless Slater came out to bat, Warne and wicketkeeper Berry began the following 'timebomb' exchange:

Warne "Tick"

Berry "Tock"

Warne "Tick"

Berry "Tock"

After several overs Slater became frustrated and hit out rashly, to be caught at deep midwicket. As he walked off, Warne and Berry, cried: "Kaboom!"

DENNIS LILLEE

The great Australian fast-bowler apparently used the following sledge on batsmen throughout his storied career: "I can see why you are batting so badly, you've got some shit on the end of your bat."

This would usually compel the batsman to examine the bottom of his bat.

Lillee: "Wrong end mate".