Saturday 23 September 2017 / 10:59 PM

Warner's stupidity threatens WC campaign

David Warner can count himself extremely lucky the only punishment he received was half of his match fee and a stern warning from Cricket Australia after his disgraceful spat with Indian batsman Rohit Sharma.

While admitting he was wrong for confronting Sharma – only after replays proved the Indian batsmen were justified in running an overthrow on Warner’s errant return – the pugnacious Aussie opener ludicrously defended his repulsive, repeated “Speak English” demand, offering this flimsy argument:

Warner said he “did the polite thing” by asking Sharma to change his dialect. The aggression he showed renders that contention laughable.

At best it was extreme arrogance. At worst it was bordering on bigotry – and Warner should be spending a couple of weeks on the sidelines to think about what it means to be a good World Cup host instead of carrying on like an intolerant redneck.

Warner’s form with the bat this summer has been breathtaking, while his Test centuries in Adelaide and Sydney – and accompanying tributes to fallen mate Phil Hughes – were inspirational. But he is swiftly sullying those golden memories with his obsession with confrontation, which permeated his performances in the field during the Test series and has finally boiled over in the ODI arena.

A notorious bad boy away from the pitch, Warner should be commended for the way he has turned things around. Just 18 months after punching Joe Root in an English pub, the 28-year-old is now a devoted family man, celebrating the birth of his first child with ironwoman Candice Falzon in September.

Goodwill for the in-form New South Welshman is fast disappearing, however, with pundits at home and abroad denouncing Warner’s latest to-do.

All-time great New Zealand batsman Martin Crowe railed against Warner’s ongoing on-field behaviour and his ‘thuggish’ antics yesterday, declaring cricket needs to introduce red and yellow cards to contain a situation that is rapidly getting out of hand.

Always eager to sink the boot in to an Australian villain, the anti-Warner sentiment is of tidal wave proportions across the Tasman – and AB de Villiers’ record-breaking feats just hours later gave the Kiwis a perfect opportunity:

 

The nuggetty opener can expect a roasting from the crowd when Australia take on the Black Caps at Eden Park during the World Cup.

Sledging came under a harsh spotlight in the wake of Phil Hughes’ death, but after an initial period of good spirit in the emotional Adelaide Test, the ferocious Australia-India rivalry saw the bitter sniping return in full force.

The Australian side would argue the Test series results suggest that it worked for them – but there’s little doubt Warner crossed the oft-talked about “line” on Sunday, despite coach Darren Lehmann’s weak assessment of the incident.

Lehmann’s response and the relentless sledging this summer hint at a lack of leadership in the Australian team. Sledging and intimidation is, and has long been, an integral part of cricket at the top level – but predominantly as a means to get on top of the opposition.

Think Lillee, Border, Waugh, Warne, McGrath and Ponting. For this Australian side, though, it seems they just can’t help themselves or keep their anger in check – and if that happens to unsettle the other team, it’s a handy bonus.  

Michael Clarke’s injury has clearly created an on-field leadership void. Steve Smith has done a tremendous job in his stead and shapes as a fine long-term skipper, but the fact that he is one of the newer permanent members of the Test line-up perhaps means he is reticent to tell his more fiery charges to put a cork in it. Stand-in ODI captain George Bailey, with no involvement in the Test set-up, probably has even less authority of the higher-profile members of the team.

Shane Watson and Brad Haddin – both well into their 30s and previously considered captaincy candidates – have been the worst offenders after Warner, perpetually offering their two cents.

At least Warner has form on the board. If Watson and Haddin had connected with the bat as many times as they have with their verbal swipes this summer, their respective places in the team wouldn’t be under such scrutiny.

It’s a factor that threatens to derail Australia’s World Cup campaign. In contrast to the unflappable, experience-laden teams of the 1990s and 2000s, the current side is unlikely to deal with criticism and the tide of public opinion going against them particularly well.

Warner prides himself on his combativeness – how he likes to “go at them” – but if he wants to realise his potential of spearheading Australia’s recapture of the World Cup trophy, he needs to focus on what he does best. And that doesn’t involve speaking to the other team, in English or otherwise.

[YouTube – cricket.com.au]

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