Bring out the powder puffs because test cricket is undergoing a facelift, if the stoush and fallout between Australia and South Africa is anything to go by.

That's because the ethical police are out with riot shields and batons to drum some sense into everyone as to what constitutes sledging without bringing the summer code into disrepute in the first two tests in South Africa.

Proteas speed merchant Kagiso Rabada has copped a two-test ban for "brushing shoulders" with Aussie captain Steve Smith and subjecting opening batsman David Warner to an over-aggressive sending off after dismissing the pair in the second test.

On the other hand, Warner opener and Proteas wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock were charged for bringing the game into disrepute for their skirmish in the first test, after something "vile and disgusting" was muttered about Warner's wife, Candice.


Teammate Tim Paine had to restraint Warner from lunging at de Kock following the alleged derogatory comment.

For the record, both the incidents involving Rabada and Warner have been labelled level two charges, "hefty fines" and three demerit points each. The problem is the Aussie vice-captain is still playing and escaped a ban.

"For me, if you look at those incidents, one is brushing of the shirt, the other is a lot more aggressive. My question was: Why are both these incidents labelled the same? For me they are not," South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis lamented.

"The contact [between Rabada and Smith] was very minimal. It was a shirt flick of two players and you would get one or two demerit points as a slap on the wrist because it wasn't full body contact. But that's where I'm sitting as a player, not as an official."

Frankly, for me, there's a disparity in the punishments meted out to Rabada and Warner.

I agree with du Plessis and believe such verdicts make a mockery of the International Cricket Council's disciplinary committee.

But, overall, it's a tad boring and stifling a format of the game that is fast losing traction with the great unwashed.

Trying to redefine sledging is akin to a rugby referee trying to tell the protagonists in a scrum when they should crouch, touch and engage (or whatever that has mutated to in the past few years).


Sledging has always been part of cricket culture — club, domestic or international variety.

Like oratory or debate, it's an art. It's true that those lacking sophistication can turn it into a crude and forgettable experience.

So let's put whatever De Kock allegedly could have possibly said about Candice into perspective.

In an Ashes match England allrounder Sir Ian Botham had arrived at the wicket to a bit of audacity from Aussie gloveman Rod Marsh.

Marsh: "So how's your wife and my kids?".

Botham: "Wife's fine. Kids are retarded."

Here's another one to juxtapose with the above to see if this traverses the boundaries of sensitivity to prompt a player into wanting to assault another:

Aussie batsman Mark Waugh: "I remember you from a couple of years ago. You were sh*t then and you're [expletive] useless now".

Black Cap wicketkeeper Adam Parore replied: "Yeah that's me. And I remember you were dating that old, ugly [expletive]. I see you've married her now. You dumb [expletive]".

And how can we forget the incident involving Aussie paceman Glenn McGrath and West Indies batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan who let loose on the bowler's wife after a tirade of abuse was hurled at him. In the West Indian's defence, he wasn't to know McGrath's wife was battling cancer at the time as McGrath had to be restrained from retaliating physically.

Sledging has long been considered a potent weapon but, if used flippantly, can backfire on the aggressor.

Umpires presiding over such testosterone-fuelled games must have amazing accounts of candid repartee mustered at the crease and it got me wondering how many of them actually had the foresight to made a career out of it as guest speakers when they retired?

But I digress.

The issue is Australians have worn the title of world champions in sledging as a badge of honour, although former Aussie spinner Shane Warne declared in his opinion column in the Daily Mail Australia that crown should go to the Black Caps.

Frankly the Kiwis can't be too good at it because their results against the Ockers aren't too impressive and becoming "humble" is the perennial escape clause following defeats.

I find it amusing that fringe-flicking Smith, with his boyish Clark Kent looks, should make such a big deal out of Rabada nudging him on the way through after a delivery.

Yes, it was provocative but is it more compelling when compared with a fast bowler threatening to knock off a batsman's head with the ball and then customarily running over to show concern for him when he is concussed?

You see, when Warner vows to maintain an aggressive stance then they shouldn't whinge when Rabada is all pumped up about celebrating taking a scalp.

How is a bloke supposed to tailor his emotions after taking a man-of-the-match, series-levelling six-wicket victory 11-150?

The 22-year-old fronted the media to apologise for letting his team and himself down and making sure it never happens again.

Say what? You'll never catch an Aussie doing that. By banning Rabada any wins the tourists register now will have a question mark on them.

Match referee Jeff Crowe and ICC don't need to take control.

If anything, the players need to polish their sledging skills to the level of masters of yesteryear such as Merv Hughes, Viv Richards and Ravi Shastri.

Hey, there's an opening for someone to open a school to master the art of sledging.