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Misjudgments all round in Warner saga

David Warner will have to work hard and tread carefully to reclaim his spot in the Australia team

Brydon Coverdale

June 14, 2013

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

David Warner under the spotlight, London, June 13, 2013
The recent controversies will probably cost Warner his Ashes spot, for he cannot prove himself in the warm-ups before the first Test © AFP
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The Wedge is a mostly forgotten sketch comedy show that aired for a couple of seasons on Australian television six or seven years ago, but there was one recurring character who rang true then and still does now. Mark Wary, as played by actor Jason Gann, was a professional at some unspecified sport, who in every skit was at a press conference apologising for some controversial incident.

"I wish to apologise undeservedly," he reads from a crumpled piece of paper, before the suited manager sitting beside him interjects. "Unreservedly," the manager corrects. Later, the manager explains: "When you reach Mark's level of professional sport you are confronted by an exceptional amount of pressure," to which Mark adds "and champagne". Mark always has an excuse.

After two public apologies in three weeks, David Warner's strike-rate is starting to resemble that of the fictional Wary. At least, to Warner's credit, when he faced the media in London on Thursday he conceded he was lucky not to have been sent home and didn't try to offer justification for hitting Joe Root. Nor did he shrug it off as a "minor incident", as the stand-in captain George Bailey had the previous day.

It might have been trivial by bar-room skirmish standards but it seemed remarkable that a respected leader like Bailey would misjudge the situation, that an international cricketer laying hands on an opponent could ever be seen as minor. It certainly wasn't by James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, who on Friday fumed like he rarely has in more than a decade in the role.

There was an edge to Sutherland's voice on Friday and an uncharacteristic sharpness in his words. He called Warner's actions "despicable" and said his apology counted "for a little bit, but not much". What was a group of players doing at a pub at 2.30am during a tournament, he wondered out loud. He did not suggest a tour curfew but placed the onus on the team to decide what was in their own best interests.

Notably, he put the blame for Warner's actions on the entire squad, team management included. Drifting off-field standards cannot be allowed in England as they were in India to the point where the homework sackings were deemed necessary. Sutherland's performance was impressive; this was not a time to be gentle. And he is right to be concerned at how it came to this.

But while stricter ground rules might need to be enforced, coach Mickey Arthur and team manager Gavin Dovey should not have to act as babysitters, and Michael Clarke has enough to worry about in getting himself fit enough for the Ashes. The addition of experienced professionals such as Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin, Ed Cowan and Peter Siddle for the Tests will help with team discipline and standards.

In the meantime, the senior men in a youthful one-day squad should have been leading by example. Warner is one of them. He has played 102 matches for his country, comfortably the most of the six Australians who were reportedly at the Walkabout pub when the Root incident occurred - Clint McKay, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Phillip Hughes were the others.

Even aside from the punch, did the thought ever enter Warner's mind that Marsh, five years his junior, might look up to him as a role model? That drinking into the early hours with Marsh might be a bad idea? Marsh is only 21 but has already been in trouble several times in his short career, including over a Perth Scorchers group drinking session at last year's Champions League. Marsh is fortunate to be on this tour in the first place; Warner is lucky to still be on it.

"I'm playing all three forms so I should be considering myself as a leader," Warner said last December. "They've had a word to me about trying to be the senior person now and trying to set standards of our Australian way. Whether we're doing a fielding drill or we're batting out the back, just keep in mind that we're training our backsides off and make sure everyone's doing the right thing."

Thanks to his own brain-snap, training his backside off is all Warner can do for the next four weeks. The punishment handed down by Gordon Lewis, the retired County Court judge who independently handles Cricket Australia's Code of Behaviour hearings, might seem neither here nor there. But being banned from playing any cricket for a month is not exactly lenient.

It will cost Warner his Ashes spot, for he cannot prove himself in the warm-ups before the first Test. Nor will it be a holiday for Warner, more like probation. He will be monitored more closely than ever and with good behaviour, might have some hope of playing later in the Ashes. He's fortunate not to have been sentenced to transportation back to the colonies.

An enforced period back in Australia might have been good for Warner in the long term, for he has been more or less permanently on the road for 18 months. If home life can keep a man grounded, a cashed-up travelling existence can have just the opposite effect, suggesting freedom from responsibilities. 

It is hard to believe that only three weeks ago, after Warner's Twitter rant at two Australian journalists, Clarke defended his leadership potential and said that "if he continues to grow as he has done over the past four or five years there's no reason, in my opinion, why he hasn't got the potential to captain Australia one day".

If he continues to be as immature as he has been over the past few months, he'll be lucky to keep playing for Australia, much less lead them. They might as well appoint Mark Wary head of PR.

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

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Posted by   on (June 18, 2013, 10:44 GMT)

no loss for the ashes anyway warner is a slam bam thank you mam batsman no good with a swinging ball as in england

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (June 17, 2013, 2:47 GMT)

What i would be interested in knowing is - What exactly was the Hashmi Amla angle in all of this? People are slagging off Warner at the 1st available oppurtunity-OK i concede that if u r an international player, u cannot run around turning other players into hamburger meat...but give the guy a break, for all u know he might be standing up for someone being diffrenciated on the basis of being/looking different (am guesing this is where the wig/beard thing fits in), if this is true-he should be commended for this. nuff said...the guy has been suspended from active cricket until the first test (whilst the management has said it will provide him with enough centre wicket practice - which is an big staring in ur face-Irony in itself!!)...am sure he will come out better for this. Hopefully he will not go the symmo - Ryder route and will continue to entertain us ...Go Warner!:)

Posted by milepost on (June 16, 2013, 12:04 GMT)

Send him home. What's the point of persisting with David Warner? David, please answer this question and have the answer on my desk by Tuesday.....

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (June 16, 2013, 8:03 GMT)

Warner's repeated misdeameanours ought to be a matter of serious concern for Australian cricket. He's nearly 27 now and ought to have matured into one of the senior pros. Instead, he still remains merely a promising batsman in a lineup that severely lacks experience.

Posted by AhmedEsat on (June 15, 2013, 23:48 GMT)

Watson is right.....If players faced severe penalties for not doing homework, how could it be right to cover up a more serious offence from Warner? Sadly, it boils down to lack of effective and consistent management. I find it increasingly difficult to feel passionate about our performances.

Posted by vj_gooner on (June 15, 2013, 6:10 GMT)

If and only If had Cricket Australia decided to give this much leeway to Andrew "Roy" Symonds.

What might have been....

Posted by Mad_Hamish on (June 15, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

It's an interesting contrast that the team management seemed to think that hitting somebody is a minor matter that should be kept quiet but not doing an assignment needed to be heavily publicized and deserved bans for a test. Yet CA rated this incident as worth a month long suspension. Raises questions about the team management surely?

Posted by Clyde on (June 15, 2013, 4:35 GMT)

Exactly, Coverdale. And I had no idea Warner was not in his early twenties. It is remarkable he has gone for so long, given what we see now.

Posted by ToneMalone on (June 14, 2013, 23:34 GMT)

A bit tough on George Bailey here. It seems like he was just trying to manage the situation, while CA's administration was taking too long to shore up its response. Had Bailey taken a "hard stance", and the CA official response then been softer (not like that hasn't happened before), then Bailey -- a fine character and underrated cricketer -- might have been hung out to dry.

For Warner, this must surely be his "Bourbon & Beefstake" moment. After that incident, Ricky Ponting admitted he had a drinking problem and picked up his act. At the very least, Warner has an attitude and anger management problem. It's time for him to take a look in the mirror and decide whether he wants to put an end to his own self-indulgent behaviour. If not, he is not fit to represent Australia in any format of the game.

Posted by Nickoshot on (June 14, 2013, 16:14 GMT)

Maybe a few weeks at home would help his state of mind, I am not blaming the IPL but if you add a full season to playing all three formats of international cricket its too much. You don't need to look at his nightclub antics look at his batting.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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