Former Test spinner Kerry O’Keeffe has spoken out against Australia’s obsession with sledging following Sunday’s “unsavoury” incident at the SCG.
On day four of the New Year’s Test between Australian and India, play was halted after pace bowler Mohammed Siraj called attention to a group of spectators in the Brewongle Stand.
Six patrons were subsequently removed from the stadium, and Cricket Australia confirmed NSW Police was investigating the incident.
The ordeal comes after India lodged a complaint to match official David Boon after two players allegedly faced racial abuse from the SCG crowd on Saturday.
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Speaking to reporters, Indian spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin claimed he has been subjected to abuse from Australian crowds for almost a decade.
“This is my fourth tour to Australia, and … we’ve had a few experiences in the past,” Ashwin said on Sunday evening.
“If I take myself back to my first tour in 2011/12, I had no clue about what racial abuse is and how you can be made to feel small in front of so many people.
“And people actually laugh at you when you get abused, and other people laugh along when these things are happening.
“When I stood at the boundary line, you wanted to stand another 10 yards in to keep yourself away from these things.”
Mohammed Siraj of India stops play to make a formal complaint.Source: Getty Images
Speaking on Fox Sports News, O’Keeffe — who was an iconic cricket commentator for the ABC before becoming a hugely popular member of Fox Cricket’s commentary team — labelled sledging the “most overrated aspect of Australian sport”, passionately calling for the abuse to end.
“It was unsavoury yesterday,” O’Keeffe said on Monday morning.
“When you come to Test cricket, you come to watch the best of one nation play the best of the other nation. It’s elite sport. It’s entertainment. It’s not stand-up comedy, where you feel you have the right to heckle the entertainer.
“Sledging is the most overrated aspect of Australian sport. Young fathers bring their children to the game; it’s a cyclical thing. If they see anti-social behaviour in the stands, they feel that is the way to conduct themselves. It’s wrong.
“I’ve been involved in the game for over 60 years. I have never seen a more overrated aspect of cricket than sledging. As a nation, we are absolutely consumed with it.
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Indian players look towards a section of the SCG crowd.Source: Getty Images
“I played 24 Tests for Australia. One of the very first questions I get from people is, ‘What’s the best sledge you’ve ever heard?’ Twenty-four Tests as a proud Australian cricketer, and they want to know the best sledge. Grow up.
“When guys get together at a cricket match, it’s game of one-upmanship in the stands — who can come up with the most stinging one-liner? It’s boorish, and you’ve crossed a line, and may have been crossed yesterday.
“Ninety-five per cent of sledging is unfunny. A huge percentage of it is personal abuse dressed up. Get over it.
“We are more mature than that. We are better than that, and we’ve got to start now.
“The standard of the cricket during this series has been stunningly good. These are two high-class teams, and it’s just the biggest shame that something in the stands is threatening to spoil it
“It’s what happens out in the middle of Test cricket that should be the yardstick for the game, and sadly with this incident yesterday, it’s been taken away.”