Champions Trophy 2013 June 12, 2013

Time for Warner to learn the hard way

Cricket Australia cannot afford to be lenient on David Warner if it finds him guilty of attacking Joe Root.

It doesn't matter whether the punch David Warner reportedly threw at Joe Root in a Birmingham bar missed, made glancing contact or struck flush on the chin. That Root has accepted an apology from Warner is of no real consequence either. All that matters is that Warner did something stupid. Again. Stupid and verbal is easy to forgive, stupid and violent is not. Unless further details emerge that show some justification for Warner's actions, it is difficult to find any reason for leniency.

Of course, there needs to be a caveat of sorts, for Warner is yet to face a Cricket Australia Code of Behaviour hearing, and only those who were present can really be sure of what transpired. But the reports that emerged throughout Wednesday do not paint him in a flattering light. Why should a man who thinks it is acceptable to throw a bar-room punch at an opponent continue to be given the privilege of playing for his country? What sort of example would that set for a society in which alcohol-fuelled violence is a growing problem?

At the very least, Warner should be stood down from the rest of the Champions Trophy. His Ashes role must also be seriously considered, and Cricket Australia is in the unenviable position of having to decide on the appropriate penalty. Is it overkill to send Warner home and leave him out of the Ashes? Perhaps. But maybe it's the only way he will get the idea, for messages seem to be as slow getting through to him as if they're delivered by sea-mail.

"An unprovoked physical attack on a member of the England team" is how an ECB statement described Warner's actions. It went on to say that an ECB investigation had found that Root (although not named in the statement) "was in no way responsible for nor retaliated to the attack". Root, Warner and other England and Australia players had been at the Walkabout pub in Birmingham when the incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, following England's win over Australia at Edgbaston.

Details began to filter out on Wednesday; Root, it seemed, had been wearing a wig that he moved to his chin and used as a fake beard. Warner reportedly grabbed the wig before throwing a punch when Root asked for it back. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Clint McKay stepped in to break things up. The "boys will be boys" attitude does not fly; throwing punches has no place in society or sport, save for the boxing ring. And after the year Warner has had, he is on very thin ice if not up to his neck in a freezing puddle already.

On the Test tour of India in February and March, Warner's fitness and skin-fold testing was unacceptable. That was one of the transgressions that led to the heavy-handed homework sackings, although Warner at least had handed his in and thus avoided a suspension. Last month, he was fined A$5750 for a lengthy Twitter spat with two journalists when he was unhappy with a photograph of him being used to illustrate a story on the seedy underbelly of the IPL.

"In hindsight, clearly I let my frustrations get the better of me," Warner had said after being fined over the Twitter row. Apologies begin to sound hollow when they are repeated time and again. Andrew Symonds found that out during his tumultuous career and Warner risks heading down the same path if he cannot control himself. Symonds was given plenty of chances, including after narrowly-avoided brawl with a Super-12s rugby player in Cape Town, and Cricket Australia learnt that indulging him was a mistake.

Warner should not assume they will make that error again, especially for a man whose form is poor and who is one of five openers in the Ashes squad. You'd think those odds would make a bloke desperate to impress. But Warner seems to believe he is indispensable to Australia. He appears to think he can play by his own rules. He's not, and he can't. And maybe he's about to learn that the hard way.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here