Percy Sledge was a famous soul and R & B performer
Percy Sledge was a famous soul and R & B performer

Percy Sledge, the Soul and Reggae and Blue (R & B) performer, passed away on April 14, 2015. While not coming remotely close to playing the sport, Sledge had a lesser-known contribution to the sport. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the American who became a part of cricket lexicon.

Percy Sledge was an American R & B and Soul performer. Among other things, he recorded the iconic “When a man loves a woman” in 1966 that got a gold certificate from Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He was also honoured with Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Career Achievement Award.

Sledge does not have any apparent relationship with cricket, and neither does “When a man loves a woman”. To find the connection (according to Pat Murphy of BBC) one needs to go back to Grahame Corling, the New South Wales fast bowler who played five Tests, all in the 1964 Ashes.

The moment Corling walked out to bat, few not-too-polite words were used by the opposition, suggesting that Corling’s wife was involved in a relationship with a teammate. They broke into a chorus of “When a man loves a woman”. And the term “sledging” was coined. The version has been supported by Satellite Sports Network as well.

There is another version: In Spin and Other Turns, Richie Benaud mentions an incident that dates back to November 1967. Corling, who went by the nickname “I’ll be,” was once caught swearing in front of a woman. A somewhat embarrassed teammate reacted: “Aw I’ll be, that’s as subtle as a sledgehammer.” Benaud adds that following the incident, swearing by any cricketer is classified as sledging, though Corling ended up earning a new nickname: Percy.

Among others, Ian Chappell, Mike Rowbottom (in Foul Play: The Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport), Graham Seal (in The Lingo: Listening to Australian English), and Ben McIntyre (in The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue) have supported Benaud’s version.

Whichever version you believe in, it cannot be denied that Percy Sledge was a part of cricket — a sport he had probably no idea about.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)