A sledging free Ashes is a myth, at least past records indicate that © Getty Images
A sledging free Ashes is a myth, at least past records indicate that © Getty Images

As The Ashes draws near, England’s incumbent new-ball duo — James Anderson and Stuart Broad — have called for a sledging-free Ashes. Rishad D’Souza shudders at the thought of an Ashes contest sans verbal volleys and hopes ‘normalcy’ will prevail once the series commences.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad are bowlers of great ability and skill. More importantly, they complement each other very well. While Anderson thrusts batsmen into a realm of uncertainty with surreal swing, Broad ensures, with pace and bounce, that the batsmen remain tied down. They have different ways, but the bottom-line is that they can both get the ball to do some talking. READ: James Anderson calls for sledging-free Ashes

Their Australian counterparts Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc (not incumbent) are just as lethal, if not more. Johnson instils in batsmen the fear for life with vicious bouncers aiming for either head or ribs and his namesake plays into those fears and ensures the batsmen’s downfall with impeccable line and length and lateral movement. Even their ways wary, but again they both get the ball to talk. READ: Mitchell Johnson expecting few heated exchanges with Ben Stokes

In short, all four make the ball say things that unnerve batsmen. When they release it from the hand, rarely does the ball come along and say a polite hello or pass by in silence. It usually asks scary questions, threatens them and if the batsmen give in, the ball asks them to leave the field and they must oblige. READ: I would love an Australian to guide England to Ashes win,says Stuart Broad

But the ball isn’t the only thing that talks, especially on the grandest of occasions. The imposing speeches made by the crimson orb are often accompanied by equally authoritative words uttered from mouths. As much as these men are masterful bowlers, they are also (mostly) intelligent sledgers. Vicious deliveries are backed with a few words by the bowlers that further disconcert the batsmen.

Sledging serves more purposes than one. Sledging helps bowlers keep the batsmen in check and gives them something to ponder about in the period between deliveries. Sledging distracts batsmen and on occasions that the bowlers can’t get the ball to talk they way they would like; when they get hit around it helps bowlers release frustration. But most importantly, sledging adds spice to the cricket, and allows the viewers to get further absorbed.

An overtly gentlemanly purist will denounce and ridicule the very idea of on-field banter that goes out of hand. The argument usually thrown is that bowlers should focus on the job and not indulge in unnecessary activity. However, sledging should be viewed as a tactical measure and not redundant indulgence. It is agreeable that bowlers should know where to draw the line and keep in mind the decorum of the game.

The fact is that the path to Test cricket is one that teaches you a lot of virtues. More often than not, players are responsible enough to know where to draw the line with words so as to not get personal and abusive at sledge. Hence, concerns about sledging being disruptive to the decorum of the sport can be dismissed as obsessive desire for courteousness. It can be established that the pros of verbal-volleying far outweighs the cons.

Unfortunately, the two English bowlers mentioned earlier, in the build-up to Ashes 2015, have called for a ‘sledging-free’ series. The call takes one as a surprise, since both men have often been involved in many a verbal incident in the past. Reasons for Anderson and Broad hoping for the same remain unknown.

Perhaps the change in attitude has come about due to the lasting trauma the 0-5 whitewash England suffered in the 2013-14 Ashes. The duo, who are also senior players of the side, want to paint an image of humility. It could also be that this happens to be just another tactic so as to catch the Australians off guard when the series begins.

Whatever the reasons, an Ashes series without instances of intense sledging is unimaginable. After years of absorbing Ashes series filled with banter (rarely in an irresponsible manner), a sudden depletion in that facet will make Ashes 2015 feel a tad incomplete. Somewhere, the flavour may suffer.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)