January 21, 2015

On TV it looks uglier than it actually is

Often reasonable arguments on the field look nasty beyond the boundary and on camera

Warner, like his former captain, wears his heart on his sleeve © Getty Images

When David Warner confronted Rohit Sharma between overs at the MCG, it reminded me of a few episodes I found myself involved in on the field. However it started or whatever was said, it did not look great, and as I came to understand over the years, the way such exchanges are perceived from off the field often turns out to be more important than the actual topic discussed or words used.

Darren Lehmann has said publicly that David is an aggressive character, and the Australian public love the way he bats, which goes hand in hand with the sort of confrontational approach he sometimes takes in the field. What David needs be aware of is how animated that can look through the lens of a television camera.

When I was captain I often had to control how things looked when I was talking to opponents or umpires. The incidents that got me into trouble often had little to do with what I was saying but how it could appear when I started moving my hands around, pointing fingers or taking on an assertive posture. That would leave me open to different interpretations from people about what might have been going on, and invariably cause the match referee to have a word. I also had a few hearings in my time.

The fact that I was captain added another level to it. Leaders have a responsibility to make sure those sorts of flashpoints don't take place on the field, but they are also the appropriate figures to speak to the umpires on behalf of their team. I always tried to avoid anything that would look bad on television or in the photos taken for the next day's newspapers. Because I was a heart-on-the-sleeve player and felt strongly about things happening the right way on the field - for my team and the benefit of the game - I had to make sure that hand gestures, hands on hips, or anything else that can look aggressive wasn't there.

That has been true of this episode for David, where his 50% match fee fine has come about largely because of how it played on television and came across to fans around the world. Whether misplaced or not, Australian anger that a run was taken after the possible deflection of a return to Brad Haddin was genuine. I could count a few instances where I've seen opposition teams take another run when the ball deflected in this way. As minor as it sounds, that convention is about as well understood as that of not running out a non-striker backing up without a warning. So I can understand some anger in the belief it had not been followed.

But as David confronted Rohit Sharma, the expression on his face and the tilt of his head didn't look good, though the minutes either side of that brief moment told a quite different story. And of course it was those gestures that went around the world.

Sometimes gestures can look far more aggressive on TV than they are meant to be © Getty Images

George Bailey stepped in to calm things down. The captain, coach and team will want David to tone things down a little, but importantly they won't want him to lose the aggressive edge he has, as that is what has made him the player he has become. After the few incidents he has been involved in across the summer and in past seasons, he is likely to be looked at more closely by ICC officials. Rather than feeling targeted, he should understand that, learn from it and tweak his on-field manner.

David is capable of that. I have been so impressed by his growth as a cricketer and as a young man. He won't want things like this to keep setting him back. He will be a bit surprised to have featured prominently in newspaper editorials, but he will learn from the experience for the future.

Similarly, the Australian team will not want to lose ground on playing the sort of cricket that has been so successful for them since Lehmann became coach. Over that time, David, Mitchell Johnson and the rest of the team have been able to play their cricket right on the edge, without spilling over too regularly. While James Sutherland has already said David needs to stop looking for trouble, it will be interesting to hear what reaction this episode brings from Cricket Australia. In the latter days of my time as captain and senior player, there was some opposition expressed about our team playing in that manner.

I have been pleased to see less second-guessing of the way the team should play in recent times, but with so many cameras, microphones and angles being sought, it is important for all players to occasionally take a deep breath or a step back and think about how their actions are going to look before they unfold.

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Australia should prepare themselves to play the whole World Cup without Michael Clarke © Getty Images

I'm expecting Michael Clarke to be fit in time to lead Australia in their second World Cup match against Bangladesh in Brisbane on February 21, but I can see the sense in the selectors saying that the team should prepare to go through the Cup without him if he isn't. The fact that it is the captain's fitness up in the air has to be more unsettling for the group than issues to do with any other player, and at some point a line needs to be drawn under that.

Past World Cups have seen some varying approaches taken around players not fit at the start of the tournament. In 2011, Mike Hussey was ruled out of our squad due to a hamstring tendon injury but regained fitness early in the event and ended up replacing another injured player, Doug Bollinger.

Four years before that, Andrew Symonds had torn a bicep, but our strong belief in his role in the team meant we were prepared to play the early part of the event with 14 players and carry him until he became fit. We unleashed him towards the pointy end of the tournament and he ended up playing an integral role in our most recent World Cup victory.

The difference with Michael is the chronic nature of his back and hamstring problems, and any further setbacks with no known recovery date would leave the players uncertain about matters of leadership at a time when the team needs to be settled to have the best chance of performing. So the selection deadline made plenty of sense to me, but I hope Michael is able to make it all irrelevant by coming up trumps in time for the Gabba.

One of cricket's modern greats, Ricky Ponting captained Australia in 324 matches and scored over 27,000 runs

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