'Grow up': Kerry O'Keeffe's brutal wake-up call to Australia

Chris Young
·3-min read
Former Test player and cricket commentary great Kerry O'Keeffe is pictured.
Former Test player and cricket commentary great Kerry O'Keeffe has issued a scathing condemnation of sledging among the crowd during games, in the wake of racism allegations levelled by the visiting Indian team. Picture: Fox Sports

Former Test player and beloved cricket commentator Kerry O’Keeffe has issued a scathing condemnation of Australia’s culture of sledging amid the crowd racism controversy at the third Test against India.

O’Keeffe, who played 24 Tests for Australia before eventually turning to commentary for the ABC and later Fox Sports, said Australia needs to ‘grow up’ when it comes to sledging.

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His comments come after Indian players were targeted with racial insults by members of the SCG crowd on day three and day four of the third Test.

Six members of the crowd were interviewed by police and ejected from the ground after Indian fast bowler Mohammed Siraj complained about their behaviour during play on day four, halting the game temporarily.

More information has since come to light about the nature of the insults levelled at the Indian team, prompting O’Keeffe to condemn the ‘unsavoury’ behaviour.

“It was unsavoury yesterday,” O’Keeffe said.

“When you come to Test cricket, you come to watch the best of one nation play the best of the other nation.

“It’s elite sport. It’s entertainment. It’s not stand-up comedy, where you feel you have the right to heckle the entertainer.

“Sledging is the most overrated aspect of Australian sport.

“Young fathers bring their children to the game; it’s a cyclical thing. If they see anti-social behaviour in the stands, they feel that is the way to conduct themselves. It’s wrong.”

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O’Keeffe wasn’t done there, arguing Australia was a nation that had become ‘consumed’ by the concept of sledging - to the point where more attention was being paid to what is said on field, as opposed to what actually happened during any given match.

The 71-year-old said he was frustrated by constantly being asked about the best sledges he’d heard in his career, rather than being asked more interesting questions about the game.

He added that the obsession with belittling opponents had gone too far.

Indian players Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were reportedly targeted with racist insults by spectators at the SCG. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Indian players Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were reportedly targeted with racist insults by spectators at the SCG. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“I played 24 Tests for Australia. One of the very first questions I get from people is, ‘What’s the best sledge you’ve ever heard?’ Twenty-four Tests as a proud Australian cricketer, and they want to know the best sledge. Grow up.

“When guys get together at a cricket match, it’s game of one-upmanship in the stands — who can come up with the most stinging one-liner? It’s boorish, and you’ve crossed a line, and may have been crossed yesterday.

“Ninety-five per cent of sledging is unfunny. A huge percentage of it is personal abuse dressed up. Get over it.

“We are more mature than that. We are better than that, and we’ve got to start now.”

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