Australia in New Zealand, 2014-15 February 25, 2016

Australia won't tone down aggression


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Five talking points from the Christchurch Test

Australia's vice-captain David Warner is adamant the new No. 1 Test team will not divert from the hard-edged playing style intrinsic to the game down under, though he concedes that with better understanding of the DRS the ugly scenes glimpsed in Christchurch may not have happened at all.

The captain Steven Smith and the fast bowler Josh Hazlewood were both fined for an incident where they aggressively questioned a third umpire decision in favour of Kane Williamson on the penultimate day of the series. While Warner did not wish to see Australia's players retreat into their shells, he admitted the anger could be tracked back to the fact they did not realise how the DRS worked in that moment.

Warner also added his opinion that the stump microphones, not meant to be turned on when the ball is dead, had exacerbated the situation. He said an explanation had been sought from the local broadcasters, with "human error" described as the reason for Hazlewood's words being picked up.

"In Steve's case where they used the [HotSpot] but didn't use the Snicko that's where he was arguing the point why they didn't use it," Warner said on his return home to Sydney. "But with conclusive evidence for the third umpire saying he hit it, he didn't need to use it.

"When you're on the field that's not communicated to you, so that's why he might have stepped across the line a little bit, and he didn't know that until he came off the field. If he had his time again and he knew that he wouldn't have debated that with the umpire.

"There has been a bit of talk about the team and the aggressive brand of cricket that we play. Steve spoke about not trying to cross that line. Stump mics were turned up and they said it was so-called 'human error' which was convenient at the time."

Criticism of Australia's aggression has seemed to arrive as if on cue with every major achievement by the team in recent times. There was the "broken f***ing arm" incident at the Gabba during the 2013-14 Ashes series, various hot-tempered scenes in South Africa the following year, and some much decried behaviour during and after the 2015 World Cup final.

However the pattern of success means that there is little desire within the Australian side to retreat entirely from a style of play that attempts to make life uncomfortable for opponents with words and body language as well as bat and ball. Warner noted how the likes of Mitchell Johnson had felt increasingly inhibited by match officials about expressing themselves on the field.

"We're about playing the game in the right spirit, but we've got a passionate brand where if you look back at the history of Australian cricket we play an aggressive style," Warner said. "A couple of the fast bowlers who've recently retired have stated that you are taking the aggression out for the bowlers a bit.

"Back in the day you used to see these battles with the fast bowlers, the batter would play and miss and the bowler would say something. These days it's taken the spark out of it a little bit - I love getting into a contest with the bowler, if he gets you out he gets the last laugh, but if you get on top of him then you can. But in the end it's what the ICC has put in place and we need to respect that."

Ironically given New Zealand's adoption of a higher road under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum, crowds across the Tasman subjected many of Australia's players to repeated personal abuse. Warner said several times spectators were asked to leave for expressing sentiments he described as "vulgar".

"Doesn't matter whether you're home or away, you're going to cop some form of abuse, but we don't expect to wake up and be hounded for six or seven hours," he said. "Some of the stuff was pretty derogatory and vulgar … the upsetting thing was the fact that if my two daughters were in the crowd I wouldn't want them listening to that kind of stuff.

"It's irrelevant what they said, but just disappointing that was happening every game. A couple of bowlers were down on the boundary, you get your odd banter here and there but when they're talking about people's families and stuff it takes it a bit too far. Some of the boys raised the issue, not to express it to anyone, more just to say 'can you get rid of this bloke' because it's just not necessary."

Warner himself played only a peripheral role in the series, making few runs with the bat and keeping himself out of trouble in the field. Asked why he has changed his behaviour, the response may be one for the ICC to keep in mind. "For me it was a 12-month probation," he said. "That made me keep my mouth shut a little bit."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • phill on March 1, 2016, 8:02 GMT

    i dont care what the players say if its kept above the vulgar personal insults i also would like the stump mikes left on at all times what i dont accept is crowds insulting players players have a reason to be completely hyped on edge crowds do not

  • Faan on February 29, 2016, 11:34 GMT

    I appeal to all crowds everywhere not to stop the pressure on Aus. Just keep the picture of the snarling Haddin in the WC final in your mind. They won't suddenly develop class because they are treated better.

  • David on February 28, 2016, 4:48 GMT

    Pacer one, are you advocating crowd abuse? This vigilante mentality has been permitted far too long in the media and Internet, and it's getting out of control, fostering a culture of irresponsible projection of hatred. It has been shown he ren beyond dispute that the Australian team do not offend more than most teams - much less in many cases. Most of their players are fine custodians of the spirit of the game.

    We have Warner relating what I and many others have noted - the extreme abuse of the team by spectators, Internet posters and misrepresentation in the media. It is time for some accountability here. Sooner or later someone in the Australian team is going to snap. The constant heckling and abuse in games and on the street - ironically by people who claim to be offended by poor behaviour - has got to stop. If media organisations continue to sponsor this hate agenda, they are complicit in what will inevitably unfold.

  • Earl on February 27, 2016, 10:35 GMT

    If their behavior continues against players and umpires,the reaction of crowds in visiting countries might help to change their behavior.They could not even send a team to the U19 tournament.Maybe they will not be able to send the test team on tours.

  • Jake on February 27, 2016, 4:32 GMT

    I love that picture at the top of this article! Looks like one for the archives. This top five batsmen are all in such good form and most average over 50! Gotta love the aggression they show. Makes game more exciting

  • Matt on February 26, 2016, 23:13 GMT

    Great logic shown by @thelast zombie - presented the facts about indiscretions on field and believes them to be inaccurate due to the fact that Australia gets away with it and other countries don't. I've heard some ridiculous conspiracy theories but that takes the cake!

  • Gautam on February 26, 2016, 15:03 GMT

    Great logic shown by some Aussie posters here. It was wrong for the stump mic to be turned on.. It was wrong of cricinfo to report.. It was wrong of crowds to dish it out to Aussies.. But of course all that abuse and personal insults hurled at opponents by Aussies including threats of violence (broken arm) are all "part of the game" because test cricket is for men.

  • Gautam on February 26, 2016, 14:56 GMT

    Strange to see Aussies crying conspiracy. So the match referees, fans from everywhere outside Australia ( and some fair minded ones from Oz land too), cricinfo website, spectators, scoreboard operators, weatherman etc are all united in smearing Australia's reputation? If the stats posted by someone on this thread about the number of sanctions per country is true, then all it shows is that Aussies have got away with it. I watch almost every game of international cricket that is broadcast, and I can remember numerous instances of Aussies getting away with it. Even claiming catches that have bounced. What irks neutral spectators is that when someone else does it, Aussies can't stand it, as if it is a monopoly. For example, Kohli's chatterbox gesture is being brought up when it was neither profanity not abusive, and Smith cries about it (I am not Indian btw). Cricinfo is neutral in its posts. Behave, or be prepare for the facts to be reported.

  • John on February 26, 2016, 12:35 GMT

    @CAMBERWELLCARROT1979 Repeating nonsense about Australia having not won in England for 20 years will never make you correct, anyone can look up the stats right here on cricinfo. Australia won 4-1 in 2001 and without bad weather and a generous declaration by the Aussies it would have been a 5-0 whitewash. England have won 1 series in Australia in 28 years, now thats a stat you can chew on

  • Rue on February 26, 2016, 12:27 GMT

    I have no problem with cricketers being aggressive to the opponent. Pretty disgusted that they try to defend abuse directed to an umpire. Warner needs to look at Australian cricket history, in the past questioning an umpire in that way would never of happened.

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