BACK in 2005, just days before the start of ‘The Greatest Test Series’, I found myself having lunch with Fred Trueman, Brian Close, Raymond Illingworth and Geoffrey Boycott.
‘The Four Greatest Living Yorkshiremen’ had come together to have their portrait painted at The Sawley Arms pub near Ripon in North Yorkshire.
As they ate, drank and reminisced, and as I sat at the table like an awestruck teenager, they touched on the thorny subject of sledging.
To a man, they agreed that verbal abuse on the field had got out of hand and was unrecognisable from when they had played. Boycott, I recall, was the most outspoken.
He said – to loud approval from the others – that if the players today were to say in public what they said on the field, they would be arrested.
“What some cricketers are saying today goes beyond the bounds of sledging – a lot of it is abuse, absolute total abuse,” said Boycott.
“If some of the things were repeated in the local pub, for example, people would be arrested.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable to say things on a cricket field that you wouldn’t be allowed to get away with in normal life – it’s an appalling way for cricketers to carry on.
“That’s not to say we were all goody-goody in our day, there was just none of the abuse that goes on now.”
Boycott added that fast bowlers like Trueman would say things, “funny things that would make everyone laugh – players, umpires and spectators” but added it was “just good-natured banter”.
Close agreed, saying: “I had a reputation for being a pretty tough customer, but I didn’t go around acting like cricketers do now.”
Which brings us to James Anderson.
Having been found not guilty of pushing India’s Ravindra Jadeja in the Trent Bridge pavilion during the recent Test match, Anderson has admitted swearing at the player.
The Lancashire man did not contest claims that he had used foul and abusive language towards Jadeja, while it is also alleged he threatened to break Jadeja’s teeth.
Bad language is not a banning offence, however, and it was the alleged shove to which the Indian team and management took exception.
But whereas Anderson faced a four-match ban had he been found guilty of shoving, it is apparently all right to make comments that might indeed result in police action were they ever heard uttered in the high street.
Anderson, a serial sledger, believes this is all part and parcel of the game.
He says it helps to get his juices flowing.
In my view, he is both a very great bowler and a poor advert for the game in the way he carries on.
In fact, he symbolises the snarling face of modern cricket – a face that it is impossible to like and to which the lily-livered authorities seem to turn a blind eye.
Anderson is on the cusp of becoming England’s leading wicket-taker in Test cricket.
Forgive me if I do not share in the inevitable outpouring of obsequious euphoria.