January 20, 2015

What makes Warner snap?

His tendency to get in opponents' faces has been in focus in recent weeks. Do we know what is motivating this behaviour?

Is it fair to suggest that the trauma of Phillip Hughes' death is contributing to David Warner's on-field behaviour? © Getty Images

Is it wrong to try to look into someone's psyche, to try and work out what is going on in their head? Can we try and work out the reasons for their decisions, reflexes, or reactions? Can we decode the reasons why people behave in certain ways, especially in stressful situations?

Was it wrong to look into what happened to Jonathan Trott a year ago and try to rationalise a reason for what he was suffering? Is it wrong to look at Kevin Pietersen and try to work out why, according to many, he doesn't fit in?

"Cogito ergo sum": I think therefore I am. For quite some time I have enjoyed, and too often lamented, looking at why I did and do things; the reasons why I reacted the way I did, the options I had and the decisions I made. Now as a commentator I also feel that it is within the role to not just inform about the actions of the combatants in the middle but to ponder the reasons for their decisions and actions.

The decisions made by teams and individuals. The rationale for a bowling change, an alteration to the field, a batsman's selection of a shot: what led to the shot, why did he play it? Why a bowler goes round the wicket, why they bowled a bad ball. Was it physical or mental, was it conscious or subconscious?

As a cricket consumer (a radio listener, reader and TV watcher) I can hear or see what is happening. Very rarely do I need to be told the obvious, but I understand that it is necessary to open the broadcast to a wider audience. "A bad ball, and that's four!" "Terrible shot, he's out!" "Will it go for four? Yes it will." I like to know why these things happened. I like to delve a little deeper. And when I'm commentating I like to explore a player's psyche. I enjoy attempting to give insight into their current behaviour and state of mind. I like to explore options open to them, discuss shot/delivery selections, and compare current performance to previous outings.

I look at David Warner. A wonderful talent. Certainly the best opener cricket has currently. He is an awesome force. There are parts of his game that are beautiful. There is also a lot of brutality to it. He is his own man.

But something is up. We can all see that. His on-field behaviour isn't up to scratch. Martin Crowe, in this article has called him a serial offender and had this to say about him:

Warner can play, but he is the most juvenile cricketer I have seen on a cricket field. I don't care how good he is: if he continues to show all those watching that he doesn't care, he must be removed, either by Cricket Australia or definitely by the world governing body.

The more he gets away with it, the more others will follow his pitiful actions. Already we see one or two of his team-mates enjoying being close to his hideous energy.

Warner's off-field behaviour may have changed for the better, but on the field he has become an escalating offender © Getty Images

I couldn't agree more. But I'm more concerned about why this is happening.

I've watched Warner a lot. In fact, I shared a changing room with him in 2010 for Middlesex. He has always been bullish, he has always been brash. He has always been close to the edge with his on-field behaviour. He has changed a lot in his off-field life, and he gives credit to his wife for a lot of that, but I feel he's only going one way on-field. I don't just see him as a serial offender, as Crowe wrote; I see him as an escalating offender. I see his "antics" descending. And his justification for these antics is baffling.

I have seen the regularity of Warner drawing fire, the growing frequency and the level of these indiscretions, increasing since late last year. Is it wrong to try to find a reason for this? Is it wrong to possibly suggest that the tragic death of his good mate Phillip Hughes - Warner was on the field when Hughes was fatally hit - is having an unwanted affect on the decisions he makes, and contributing to his involvement in conflicts?

It might be salient to look at the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in this context. Research shows that it is possible that someone witnessing trauma or accidents might suffer PTSD, just as those who actually experience assault-based trauma could. The UK's NHS website states that about one in three who have a traumatic experience will experience symptoms of PTSD.

"Causes of the symptoms of PTSD are the experiencing or witnessing of a stressor event involving death, serious injury or such threat to the self or others in a situation in which the individual felt intense fear, horror, or powerlessness."
- excerpt from Wikipedia referencing this article

While this potential explanation does not necessarily excuse Warner's actions of late, it does give a possible reason for the frequency of his outbursts. How we all deal with situations, whether tragedy or success, is very personal.

Glenn Maxwell, speaking to Cricket Australia, opened up about how the events surrounding Hughes' demise affected him and gave insight into how he is, or isn't, dealing with the tragedy. "I keep having random moments of weakness where I just lose it because I start thinking about him... [Batting] out in the middle is the only time I've felt good."

Perhaps it is fair to say that Warner has had similar demons to deal with since the death of his very good friend. Perhaps it isn't. It may be that it is still worth discussing. Maybe we can just rule out any form of PTSD and simply justify Warner's actions saying, "He has always been like that", and say they might also be a result of the laxity in efforts to curb certain forms of on-field behaviour. I get the feeling there's a little more to his recent behaviour than can be explained by the flighty application of fines and limited consequences for his actions.

Former New Zealand fast bowler Iain O'Brien played 22 Tests in the second half of the 2000s

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