'Sledging crackdown has weakened Aussies'

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/sledging.jpg' class='caption'> The boss of Australia's cricketers' union has blamed a crackdown on sledging, or on-field insults, for poor performances after the team.

Updated: December 22, 2010 07:35 IST
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The boss of Australia's cricketers' union has blamed a crackdown on sledging, or on-field insults, for poor performances after the team roared back to form during the testy Ashes encounter in Perth.

Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive Paul Marsh said curbing aggressive instincts had hindered the side, which had not won a Test since July but trounced England in the third Test amid a barrage of verbal hostilities.

Australia were ordered to tone down their sledging after the notorious 2008 Sydney Test against India, when alleged racial remarks prompted an angry public backlash against a team dubbed the "Unloveables".

"I think there's no doubt the team's performance has been affected," Marsh told Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald.

"Hard aggressive cricket is in the Australian team's DNA and unfortunately the players started second-guessing their natural instincts in the heat of battle for fear of reprisal from CA (Cricket Australia) or a public backlash from the vocal minority."

Both teams have acknowledged raised temperatures during Australia's crushing 267-run win in Perth, which they wrapped up on Sunday, with England fast bowler James Anderson notably sparring with opposite number Mitchell Johnson.

"The series is certainly full-on now. There was plenty of chirp flying around between the players in the third Test and I think that was because the pitch was lively," England's Graeme Swann wrote in The Sun newspaper.

And Australia's Shane Watson spoke of his delight at seeing Paul Collingwood dismissed with the last ball of day three after Anderson failed to take a quick single that would have shielded the batsman from the strike.

"It was one of my best moments on the cricket field," said Watson. "It was so enjoyable because of the banter that's been going around over the last three Tests."

Australia, in transition after the retirement of a golden generation including Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, were toppled from the top Test ranking after last year's Ashes defeat in England and recently fell as low as fifth.

Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said the team went through a "period of introspection" after the 2008 backlash.

"But the public has consistently told us since then, through three years of research, that they are totally comfortable with on-field aggression as long as it is hard but fair cricket."

"What the public saw in Perth, from my understanding of the public mood, was completely acceptable."

Australia and England are locked at 1-1 in the five-Test series. The fourth Test starts in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

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