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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arun on June 13, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    A bar room brawl needs to be forgotten as soon as the brawlers leave the bar. Just like the adage "Foes on the Cricket field and Friends off it". If Warner has to be punished for punching an opponent, all other players who were with these two should also be punished for entering into a "friendly - needly banter" about a bar. This is not to say Warner was right in punching Joe's Root but why apply different yardsticks for physical and verbal brawls? The players had no reason to needle each other (as per published news), knowing fully well that they are opponents in a game, which has seen traditional rivalry between the two countries. If there have to be punishments, spread it to all the players who were involved.

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    @Dan Schmidt. This is a very good point - the IPL money seems to mean that Warner doesn't "ache" for the baggy green. Cricket perhaps needs to be able to take a leaf from other sports with multiple competitions - so that CA is able to ban David Warner (and other miscreants) from all competitions. So, following the rugby example, Dylan Hartley got red in the Aviva Premiership Final and missed a Lions tour. The cricket calendar perhaps doesn't lend itself to this in quite the same way, but you can bet that the Aus players in India in Feb (I think) would have been on best behavior if transgressions could have resulted in missing the IPL bounty.

  • Rohan on June 13, 2013, 8:35 GMT

    @Andrew Simon Carr, spot on, it's a shame to see talent squandered because of poor character. I think the guy needs to be sent home, not for this incident alone, but for the poison he is clearly bringing to team culture. Unfortunately it doesn't appear he may be only one I'm afraid. That said, everyone should remember that R. Ponting was an equally big sod for quite a while early in his career. He had a look at himself after being dropped and came back a mature, if overly competitive for some weak kneed tastes, cricketer that dominated the worlds bowlers for a decade. Warner just needs to pull his bloody big head in!

  • K. S. Chandrasekhar on June 13, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    I am really surprised that most are hell bent on sending Warner home. He is a genuine talent and needs some plain speaking especially since these are days of sports psychologists, motivators etc and they need to do their jobs too.

    CA had better get the entire team motivated and focussed which would help avoid these incidents. If you care to remember the not so distant past, Ponting had a similar problem and was handled well by CA and everyone knows where he ended.

    We need some mature heads who can guide all this energy to achieve the results that they want.

    Chandrasekhar India

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    Australian cricket is in shambles and I think it is important to invest in people who are long term bets, like the 1987 team that won the world cup in India. The selectors had invested in long term bets like Steve Waugh, McDermott, Boon and Marsh . But crucial to all these people was the desire to succeed and the right attitude to the game. Warner has achieved too much success too soon in terms of recognition, money whatever . Of course you can blame the IPL for this, but there is a serious malaise if cricket is interpreted as a physical sport. It is not . I think cricket Australia should send out a strong signal and send Warner home. It does not matter if he is missed and something tells me , he wont be . Australia did better without him yesterday but more importantly Warner must learn a lesson he wont forget. Ricky Ponting was punished and became a stronger, better person. Maybe Warner needs to follow suit and learn the hard way. Ramanujam Sridhar

  • David on June 13, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    He should be sent home immediately and have his CA contract cancelled. He has brought Australian cricket into disrepute and embarrassed all of us. Must suffer from "short man syndrome" after a few drinks. By all means play the game aggressively but it is only a game, after all. When in the bar with the opposition, you can learn just as much about them as when you compete.

  • Scott on June 13, 2013, 5:38 GMT

    Well, if it's reasonable to suspend players for a game for not doing there homework, then throwing a punch at an opposition player, must be a better than even chance he gets sent home.

    What odds you give me Tommy? :-)

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    If akhtar got sent home fir whacking Asif on the thigh, warner must go. U do not punch opposition players. This is what happens when u r the golden child of aus cricket and everything gets given to u, despite no runs to back u up. He'll play the ashes tho. Loved the article Brydon

  • Dummy4 on June 13, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    Good article. In the past you could say drop someone and it costs them so much money the threat is real, but for Warner, he makes so much money in the IPL this isn't a concern. He has gotten away with too much for too long, and needs to learn how to ache for a baggy green. He doesn't respect it and must be bringing others down with him. The only cure is a period of time out of the test team to make some runs and come back when he's learnt something. He only averages 20-something away from home anyway. If he goes home, Michael Klinger is in England and would be a decent replacement. He would at least give everything for the baggy green.

  • Sanjay on June 13, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    Brydon spot on. Hard to understand why Warner gets protected so much.