Sydney: Australian cricketers hit back on Thursday after being branded serial sledgers by South African players.
South African rookie Graeme Smith lashed out at the Australians this week, describing their verbal assaults in the February-March Test series as "below the belt". He singled out opener Matthew Hayden as the worst culprit, although he named One-day captain Ricky Ponting, star spinner Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, Justin Langer and wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist as just as foul-mouthed. Smith said Hayden "stood on the crease for about two minutes telling me that I wasn't f...ing good enough" when he went to bat in his second innings. Smith also said he was hit by a prolonged spray from McGrath, while Warne repeatedly swore at him and fast bowler Brett Lee said he would "f...ing kill me" after a mid- pitch collision. Jimmy Maher, one of Australia's best players during their 5-1 victory in the One-day series, was surprised at Smith's claims. "It's unfair because I didn't see or hear anyone step over the mark the whole time I was there," Maher said on Thursday. "You're representing your country and it's hard cricket. You're not going to give a bloke a Kit Kat and a can of Coke when he comes out to bat and say 'I hope you have a great time'. "I've had things said to me before and I take it with a pinch of salt because I've get more important things to focus on." There were no complaints made against the Australians by the on-field umpires and there were no reports made to the Australian Cricket Board, which said Thursday it did not condone verbal abuse which is covered by the International Cricket Council's (ICC) code of conduct. "If Australian players are breaking the code of conduct I'm sure officials at the match would take appropriate action," ACB chief executive James Sutherland said. However, Test captain Steve Waugh calls sledging "mental disintegration" useful in unsettling the opposition. The ICC said in April it would crack down on bad language and gave umpires new powers, which could ultimately lead to players being banned for life, to deal with verbal abuse. "Rather than seeking to eliminate these exchanges entirely, umpires will look to lay charges when this falls below an acceptance standard," ICC general manager Dave Richardson, the former South Africa wicket-keeeper, said. Australia's cricket team, awarded the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award a fortnight ago, will next be tested on its good manners when it plays Pakistan in a One-day series here in June.