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Clarke plays a straight bat to World Cup sledging questions

February 27, 2015

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — When the question inevitably came at a news conference Friday, Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke rolled his eyes and sighed with weary resignation.

Clarke knew on the eve of his team’s Cricket World Cup clash with New Zealand that the issue of sledging would arise: it’s an issue which has dominated media coverage in the leadup to the match.

Contrast has been drawn between Australia’s abrasive approach, the embodiment of its take-no-prisoners style of cricket, and New Zealand’s approach which has been characterized as more subtle.

“Ahhh, sledging. I’m sick of taking about it,” Clarke responded with barely disguised frustration.

“For me personally it’s never impacted my game,” Clarke added, eventually warming to his subject. “So me saying something to somebody else or somebody saying something to me has never helped me to have success or hindered me from having success.

“I’ve played against a lot of teams that have sledged me and I’ve played in teams that have sledged a lot of players, so I’m not too concerned about the banter. It’s always been a part of the game that I’ve grown up playing.”

Clarke insisted, as he has in the past, that every Australian player knows that the on-field banter has limits, that there are lines that can’t be crossed. He said Australia’s verbal abuse of opposing players always stayed within those lines.

In the past, Clarke has been forced to defend his own actions, in greeting England bowler James Anderson during an Ashes test with a warning that Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson would break his arm, or batsman David Warner’s demand to India’s Suresh Raina to “speak English.”

Clarke said Australian players frequently discussed those boundaries and weren’t inclined to overstep them. The Australians won their opening game against England convincingly, and had to share the points against Bangladesh when their game last Saturday was washed out in Brisbane. New Zealand has opened with three straight wins. There’s a lot riding on the clash of the co-hosts.

“I know that both teams once they walk out onto that field it’s about having success, it’s about doing whatever you can to help your team get over the line and win, but also respecting that there’s a line that you shouldn’t cross,” Clarke said. “We talk about it regularly as a team because we understand and respect that we set a standard for the people watching at home, young boys and girls that want to play the great game of cricket.

“But I certainly wouldn’t expect Australia and New Zealand to walk out onto that field tomorrow and be best of mates on the field.”

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