Warner hits back at 'immature' McCullum
If Australia and New Zealand are the big brother and little brother across the ditch, they have certainly mastered the art of the sibling insults. You're immature. No, you are. I know you are but what am I? Such is the niggle that has crept in between the teams this year, a year in which they not only faced off in a World Cup final, but have clearly approached their cricket in different ways.
New Zealand under Brendon McCullum are all about the spirit of cricket. No sledging and send-offs for them. By comparison, Australia have been widely viewed as the villains of the rivalry, the masters of the on-field verbals, the send-offs, of playing to win at all costs. They say they try not to cross the line, but in the words of David Warner: "We've head-butted it a couple of times".
A key case of carping this year was McCullum's Daily Mail column in September, when he said that Australia's captain Steven Smith had "showed his immaturity" by not withdrawing an obstructing the field appeal against England's Ben Stokes in an ODI. McCullum argued that it was a chance for Smith to make a statement about the way he wanted his side to play.
It was a comment that was not well received by the Australians, who in the lead-up to this week's first Test in Brisbane have clearly not forgotten McCullum's words. Smith told News Limited this week that he was "a little bit disappointed" and that he felt it was none of McCullum's business; his vice-captain was less polite in his words when asked about the incident on Tuesday.
"In my opinion it was something that was quite poor and immature on his behalf, to actually make the comment about Steve," Warner said. "For one, as an international cricketer I don't see the need or the right for a current cricket captain to write columns on another series. After I read the first one I didn't really pay attention to what he was saying.
"His opinion is going to be heard worldwide but you can't be talking about the players the way he did. At the end of the day he's the captain and you've got to respect Brendon, he's done a great job with the Kiwis and he's trying to make them the world's politest team, and well done to him."
Warner was critical of what he considered to be the hypocrisy of McCullum by having his team play as the "Mr Nice Guys" of world cricket on the field, yet criticise Australia's captain off it. New Zealand have been regular winners of the ICC's Spirit of Cricket Award, but that is not something that interests Warner.
"At the end of the day you're not playing for the Spirit of Cricket Award are you, you're playing for a series and for us that's what our goal is, is to win the series," he said. "Our goal is to be No.1 in all formats and we're always going to fight for that. At the end of the day we try not to cross that line. A couple of times we've head-butted it."
Smith, for his part, said this week that if he had his time over again he would do nothing differently in following through with the obstructing the field appeal against Stokes. McCullum wondered in his newspaper column at the time whether Smith might live to regret the appeal, but Australia's captain dismissed that suggestion this week.
"I actually wouldn't change a thing," Smith said. "I think what happened, Starcy threw the ball and Stokes willingly put his hand out when the ball was going to hit the stumps, so for me it was just out. If I faced the same situation again you'd get the same result.
"It was a nice little experience. Obviously the crowds can be quite vocal over in England, at Lord's that day they were getting into you. That doesn't happen too often but I think it was nice to look back and be able to say if that happened again I'd do the same thing. No regrets."
The New Zealanders can no doubt expect some choice words from the Australians when the Test series begins on Thursday, as was the case during the World Cup; after the final, Brad Haddin said he had wanted to get stuck into New Zealand because they had been so nice it made him feel uncomfortable. Fast bowler Trent Boult said sledging was not in the New Zealand make-up.
"In terms of sledging, the Australians are known for that but I can't see us wasting too much energy there and getting caught up in too much of that stuff," Boult said. "We haven't spoken about don't sledge anyone or anything like that. It's 38 degrees out there at the moment so we aren't going to waste our energy trying to spray the Australians."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale