London: The ICC's recently-promised crackdown on sledging might make it seem that players are behaving badly more often right now but former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff feels the on-field altercations were 10 times worse a couple of decades ago.
The ICC has warned of strict action, including bans, if players cross the line during next month's ODI World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand from February 14. Most recently, David Warner was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for a verbal spat with Indian batsman Rohit Sharma during a tri-series match although the Australian later claimed that he was merely asking his rival to speak in English.
Flintoff said the language used in the years gone by was much worse. "Twenty years ago, sledging was 10 times worse. Now, with stump microphones and cameras all over, everything gets picked up," Flintoff told 'BBC Sport'. "One of the first Test matches I played against South Africa, there was one fella ... he was the worst I have ever come across - Daryl Cullinan. He was horrible. I was only young... the words he called me, I didn't even know what they meant. He just went at me and I don't think there's any place for that in any sport or any society," he said.
Flintoff said some of the Australians, considered the most aggressive when it comes to sledging, were, in contrast, better with their words. "I don't mind the odd chirp - Adam Gilchrist was fantastic at it because he'd do enough to put you off but not enough to upset you," he said.
"Shane Warne was similar. "It seems you can walk onto the field, say anything you want about somebody and then walk off and forget about it. You wouldn't walk into somebody's office and let rip at them for 10 minutes and then go for a cup of tea," he said.
Talking about the current England team's chances at the World Cup, Flintoff was candid enough to say that his former team was never a good one-day side. "I feel sorry for them a little bit because there's a lot of baggage they carry around in one-day cricket. It's not their fault, it's everybody who went before them. We need to realise we have never been any good at one-day cricket - even when I was playing.
"I played in three World Cups and didn't get anywhere in any of them, but for the England team now it's a chance to blaze a trail and form an identity," he explained.