The current furore regarding the 'sledging' issue between India and Australia has got me thinking about the differences in how we grow up, and how we play cricket. This issue has been with me for a while and I thought that I would finally try and verbalise my feelings. Having been an avid cricket viewer for well over twenty years now, I feel that there are inherent cultural differences in how varying countries play cricket, and this is the basis of the problem. It is not racially based, but rather a cultural style of playing.
For the sake of the argument, I have lumped India/Pakistan and Sri Lanka together in comparison to Australia/West Indies/South Africa and England (and ignored the rest just to keep it simple). I feel that the two groups have some fundamental differences in how they play the game, and this is a major part of the inconsistencies that we are seeing in decisions made by the ICC umpires and match referees over the past few years.
As two examples (and these are generic examples and not meant to be a criticism), Australia/West Indies/South Africa and England all play cricket in quite a physical manner. By this I mean that there is a fair amount of intimidation (sledging/staring etc) of the opposition even in lower grade cricket. In contrast, I don't think that this is inherently part of the Indian/Pakistan/Sri Lanka approach to playing our great game. Their national teams will try to do it, but it is not what they are used to. In contrast to this, India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka seem to have a habit of appealing vigorously for anything that is even vaguely close to being out. Whether this is a deliberate attempt to bias an umpire or just part of their game I don't know. I don't think that Australia/West Indies/South Africa and England appear to do this as instinctively, and it looks very contrived when they attempt to do it.
Why this is becoming a problem is that players from the India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka group are now being judged by ICC umpires and match referees from the Australia/West Indies/South Africa and England group, and vice versa. What one side feels is a minor offence, the other side is not used to and therefore can reacts quite angrily to it. I feel that Steve Bucknor is an example of this, as he seems to get really agitated by the constant appealing of India etc, but the sledging doesn't phase him as much. He has grown up in the West Indian system of aggressive fast bowlers and batsmen, but he has not been part of the appealing culture and this therefore grates on him more as it is not something he is used to. In contrast, I remember umpires like Venkat coping well with the continuous appealing, but getting quite upset with the sledging side of things.
I realise that I am generalising greatly, and that this is just a theory that I am throwing out there and not one that I necessarily think is correct. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong, but we need to understand where everyone is coming from before we can iron out the inequalities in the ICC system that seem to occur.