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Geoffrey Boycott column: Root should get team to cut out sledging

England captain should follow McCullum in demanding that game is played in the right spirit

By Geoffrey Boycott, The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2018
14:14 March 21, 2018

England need to start playing some quality Test-match cricket in New Zealand to win over the public. They need deeds and heroics on the field and not headlines about incidents in bars and nightclubs.

It is time Joe Root, as captain, stamped his authority on the team and that should start by our England cricketers cutting out sledging. Sledging is crude and ugly and sets a bad example to youngsters.

When Brendon McCullum became captain of New Zealand in 2012, he instilled in his players a no-sledging policy. His view was just to play cricket no matter what the provocation from the opposition. Well done, Brendon.

Although he has retired, and Kane Williamson has taken over the captaincy, New Zealand have continued to play cricket the right way. England should follow suit and play good tough, competitive, even aggressive cricket, but not with their mouths.

Root could cut out England sledging from Thursday and say this is how we will play from now on. Sadly, many players and teams have got it into their heads that sledging is macho and enhances their performances. That is why Root and Trevor Bayliss are reluctant to tell the England team to cut it out in case it inhibits a player’s performance.

My view was always, get mad at yourself, wind up one of your own bowlers to bowl faster or better, but abusing the opposition is unacceptable.

There is too much on-the-field goading and in-your-face foul-mouthed abuse.

That sort of intimidatory language would not be accepted in a pub. There would be a fight in no time.

It is getting so bad that in a Test between South Africa and Australia recently, players nearly came to blows. How is that good for cricket’s image?

If you are comfortable in your own skin and confident in your own cricketing ability, it should not matter what the opposition say or do.

You can silence any detractors through your performance, not retaliate with a gob-full of abuse. Score a century, take five wickets and win the match. That is all that matters.

We saw in Australia that Root was not frightened to show some ingenuity with unusual field placing, but he was let down by his bowlers. What we need him to do now is show some real leadership and be his own man. Great leaders are not followers of fashion or the norm. They are innovators. Has Root got it in him? Can he be like McCullum?

Root is one of the great batsmen of the world. He is in a position to make a real statement. McCullum is a great man, but was not a great player. Joe is going to be a great player for 10 years.

Changing the way England are perceived around the world is his chance to put his stamp on cricket. He could make this England team admired for the way they play the game and the standards they set. This team could be the role models cricket badly needs. You should not care about what the opposition gets up to, just go your own way. The abuse has gone too far. It is time for someone of Joe’s stature to say enough is enough. We have to change and play the game the right way.

It is one thing to play poor cricket. That happens. You win and you lose.

But there is no excuse for the yob culture of drinking in bars or abusing on the field. We want to be looked up to and admired for the standards we set. We want to set standards and not follow other people. England players need to redeem themselves after a dreadful Ashes series, the off-field antics of Ben Stokes that led to him getting arrested, Jonny Bairstow butting Australian opener Cameron Bancroft and Ben Duckett pouring alcohol over Jimmy Anderson in a bar.

This winter, more people were talking about after-hours antics than England’s cricket and that is bad for the game. The image — whether deserved or not — of loutish, uncouth behaviour that has gone around the world has to stop. English cricket cannot afford any more of these incidents and bad headlines.

If it happens again, someone should lose their job. Maybe that is the only way to get through to our players and coaches that this winter has been a disaster, on and off the field.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has always left discipline to the head coach. Bayliss says he treats the players as adults and does not like to put restrictions on them or have curfews.

But if some players act like children, then it is his job to handle them. As coach, he does not have to score any runs or take any wickets. His job is man-management, and discipline is a big part of handling guys.