( dpa )- Australians were shocked Wednesday when their head of state broke protocol to criticize the world-champion cricket team for verbally abusing its opponents.
Governor-General Michael Jeffery, the queen's representative in Australia, joined in the intense public disquiet over the arrogance and loutish behaviour on display in the just-concluded four-match Test series against India.
"Their example is absolutely critical to the well-being of cricket and sportsmanship in this country," Jeffrey said. "While we should be playing the game tough and hard and all of that sort of thing, I think there's also a need to really take care of the fundamental courtesies and good manners."
In a rare, perhaps unprecedented rebuke, the governor-general described as "totally un-Australian" trying to unnerve opponents through insults and snide remarks - a practise that Australian players call "sledging," and which they claim to have perfected as a way of inducing "mental disintegration" in their opponents.
Sledging has the tacit support of their cricketing authority, Cricket Australia.
"I think there have been times in recent years where it's obvious that things (have deteriorated)," the retired army general said. "Questioning umpires' decisions, not walking, sledging - which I'm totally against in a vicious sense."
He said the behaviour of the home team at the conclusion of the Sydney Test, which gave Australia a 2-0 advantage in the series, had been a "wake-up call" for a return to sportsmanship on the field.
Captain Ricky Ponting and his team failed to shake hands with the Indian players after winning the Sydney Test, and his players stayed at the crease when they knew they were out and claimed catches they knew were not properly taken.
A front-page article in the top-circulation daily called for Ponting to be sacked for a win-at-all-costs attitude that had brought shame on his country.
Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bogle called for sledging to be outlawed and for Cricket Australia to declare it outside the spirit of the game. Arjuna Ranatunga , a former Sri Lankan captain and chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket, has also called for a ban on sledging, saying that players "should stop all shouting in the grounds."