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McGrath speaks: *@%&!?*

GLENN McGrath has got his due reward at last. And I, for one, think that it has come about because an umpire like Steve Bucknor, who is not afraid of displeasing his hosts, stood in the fourth Ashes Test. The only thing to be regretted is that the fine is suspended; he should have been docked his entire match fee right away.

Sledging is an ugly thing, no matter the way commentators glorify it nowadays. Ian Chappell has given Australian cricket many things to emulate but this habit, his legacy, is not one of them. Chappell started the growth of this virus in the Australian team and it has never left after that. The term "ugly Australians" has come about entirely due to this habit which was taken to an art form by people like Geoff Lawson.

No cricket watcher, least of all a serious one, would be put off by exchanges of the sort which took place between Viv Richards and Greg Thomas during a county match at Taunton. Thomas had just taken a wicket and when Viv played at a couple and missed, the paceman offered some advice: "Hey Viv, it's red and it's round." Richards hit the next ball over Thomas's head and out of the ground and added a few words of his own: "You know what it looks like, man. You go and fetch it."

Unfortunately, such exchanges are the exception these days. What is exchanged between players is vile abuse, often verging on racial epithets. The disgusting thing is that commentators like Tony Greig speak in glowing terms of such exchanges as adding spice to the game and thus it gains some kind of legitimacy. Greig was one of those who was not above the practice himself and has always been suspect in his judgement on matter of this nature. His famous "grovel" remark made in 1976 when referring to the West Indies is too well known to bear repeating.

McGrath seems a perfectly normal player when he is in the field but the moment he steps up to bowl some kind of transformation occurs a la Jekyll and Hyde. The last time when he went overboard was during the fifth Test against the West Indies in 1996-97 when he went for West Indian batsman Robert Samuels who had made his debut during the series. Countless other players, both young 'uns and veterans have come in for their share of abuse, and Bucknor and Steve Harper deserve the highest praise for reporting him to the match referee.

There is one more thing which should be noted: a great deal of sledging during games involving teams from India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka goes unreported because of the language in which it is uttered. There should be a moratorium on this as well; language which implies incest or questions a person's parentage has no place on a cricket field, no matter the language in which it is uttered. McGrath has been made an example of and the umpires and match referees should continue to penalise players who behave like boors. A suspension from a match or two would be much better than a mere fine.