Sledging - the art of getting under your competition's skin by throwing shade at them via verbal intimidation. The idea is to shake your opponent's concentration thereby putting them in a situation in which they are likely to make mistakes and give you the opportunity to exploit their distraction.
Having said that, there exists a very fine line between competitively mocking someone and actually offending them on levels that are not only socially unacceptable but can also mentally scar them, and sledging works along that thin line.
Understandably, the process could get a bit tricky especially in today's era of the internet in which information travels faster than light and nothing ever is truly forgotten.
In the first month of 2019, the cricketing world has seen two examples of sledging that were triggered for similar reasons but turned out to be poles apart in terms of their respective outcomes.
While on one hand, we got to witness the great competitive spirit between the Indian wicketkeeper, Rishabh Pant and the Aussie Test captain, Tim Paine, during the Test series between India and Australia, on the other, was what we can only call a complete disaster at the hands of the Pakistani skipper Sarfraz Ahmed against South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo.
During India's tour Down Under, there were various instances in which Pant and Paine exchanged some cheeky comments. While Paine called him a 'babysitter', the 21-year-old returned the favour by asking him how his 'temporary' captaincy was going. The fact that Tim's wife Bonnie Paine joined the ongoing sketch with the classic photo with Pant and even the Australian Prime Minister appreciating the competition, made the rivalry a lot more exciting and fun to watch.December 28, 2018
Despite the comical banter, the two wicketkeepers and batsmen kept it classy while respecting the competing nature of one another. No badmouthing or display of passive aggression was reported during the series or even after it. It was good entertainment for the players, the commentators and the millions of Indian and Australian fans of the game who tuned in daily to watch the two historically great teams go head-to-head.December 29, 2018
And then there is Pakistan captain, Sarfraz Ahmed's absolute blunder which came up during the second ODI against South Africa.
In a desperate attempt to break a completely dialled-in Andile Phehlukwayo's focus, the wicketkeeper yelled out: “Abey kaale, teri ammi aaj kahaan baitheen hain? Kya padhwa ke aaye hai aaj? (Hey black guy, where's your mother sitting today? What [prayer] have you got her to say for you today?).” Not so subtle, is it?
Sarfaraz Ahmed to Andile Phehlukwayo:
"abbay kaale teri Ami kahan bethi hoyi hain aaj, kya parhwa kay aya hai aaj"
"black man wheres your mother sat? What have you asked your mother to pray for you today?"#SAvPAK pic.twitter.com/vw6yuE73OE
The comment was so offensive that even the legendary Ramiz Raja, the on-air commentator during the match, seemed uncomfortable even speaking about it and when asked by fellow commentator Mike Haysman to translate it for the rest of the English speaking audience, he bailed out by saying that it was a “big long sentence” and was therefore “difficult really to translate.”
Racism, in any form, is unacceptable and when you are visiting a country like South Africa, that has a history so tainted by sacrifice and blood lost over colour based discrimination for decades, the visitors must be extra sensitive about such issues.
For Ahmed, who happens to be the captain of a national team and therefore the most influential representative of his country, to say something so appalling, is a testament to his lack of sportsmanship and insensitivity towards the others.
Pakistan not only lost the match at the hands of Phehlukwayo, who went on to become the Man of the Match but now, Ahmed is also looking at some very serious sanctions that the ICC is mulling over his violation of the ICC Anti-Racism Policy for International Cricket.