The sentiment that ‘cricket is a gentleman’s game’ seems a bit overrated after hearing all the stories of sledging from different eras of cricket. Former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid aka ‘The Wall’ was known to rarely get riled up by sledging from fast bowlers. On most occasions he tried to be calm and let his bat do the talking. Over the years, fast bowlers have revealed how they’ve sledged batsmen, often saying nasty things to evoke a reckless stroke. The latest entrant to the list is former South African fast bowler Allan Donald, aka ‘The White Lightening’. Donald apparently sledged Dravid to an extent he now regret after two decades.
The incident happened in during India’s tour of South Africa 1997. In a rain-curtailed match, India needed 251 runs in 40 overs by Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) method. India got off to a flier despite Sourav Ganguly’s wicket. Dravid was smacking the ball all over the park trying to keep up with the required rate.
After the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin, Dravid switched to an anchoring role, understanding the need for stability and runs. South Africa knew that as well. Donald was a ferocious bowler in those days, for you don’t earn the nickname ‘White Lightening’ for nothing.
But Dravid was, well, Dravid. He hit Donald for a six over long on, pretty soul-crushing for a frontline fast bowler. The Karnataka batsmen was pretty ruthless in that innings considering the fact that he has hit just 42 sixes in his entire ODI career (344).
Donald understood there is a need to break Dravid’s concentration. Like in the recent interview with Sports24 he revealed,
My sledging of Rahul Dravid in 1997 was way over the top. We were getting a proper hiding and I called Hansie over and said, “Listen, you are going to have to back me up here because I might have to overstep the mark.” The way I said what I did to Dravid was definitely not on but I was willing to do something that might bring me a wicket. Two overs later, we got him out and eventually won that ODI final against India in Durban.
South Africa won the match by 17 runs, but Donald lost the respect of Dravid and the Indian team. The 52-year-old further added,
Post-match, I went up to Rahul who obviously didn’t want to speak to me, and of course the Indian team wasn’t happy with me, but down the line we managed to sort it out. Looking back at it now, I reckon the match referee would have given me a year off from cricket. I said all sorts to Dravid and there was a fair amount of swearing involved. That is probably the worst moment I have ever been involved in.
Cricket lovers around the world are all ears to the banter on-field. We absolutely loved the banter between Tim Paine-Rishabh Pant in the Test series. But boundaries should not be crossed. Donald recalled the incident in light of the recent racist comments from Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed for Andile Phehlukwayo.