Smith: Warner's lifetime ban from leadership 'fundamentally wrong'
"David served his time like I did. We know he's a leader around the group, and on and off the field he's doing a tremendous job"
Steven Smith has called David Warner's lifetime ban from leadership "fundamentally wrong" and conceded that the lengthy saga of trying to get it overturned had been a distraction for him.
Warner dropped a dramatic statement on the eve of the second Test against West Indies in Adelaide when he announced he would be withdrawing from the process implemented by Cricket Australia after they had rewritten their code of conduct to allow Warner to appeal the ban.
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"From my point of view, banning for life from leadership is just fundamentally wrong," Smith said after Australia's 419-run victory. "David served his time like I did. For us, we know he's a leader around the group, and on and off the field he's doing a tremendous job. "
Warner, and CA, had wanted a private hearing in front of the independent panel but the commissions ruled that it should be held in public which Warner argued would have become a "lynching" and he wasn't willing to put his family and team-mates through a retrial of the events at Newlands in 2018.
Nick Hockley, the CA chief executive, defended the organisation's handling of the situation, saying the independent panel was needed for transparency and was "disappointed" Warner had withdrawn. However, Todd Greenberg, his counterpart at the Australian Cricketers' Association, argued Warner had been left with no choice and expressed the frustration that CA had not handled the appeal themselves.
"It's been a difficult one for him, it's been a difficult week," Smith said. "It has been more of a distraction for Davey, no doubt, going through that himself. David has said he's done and dusted and get on with it. He's got our full support. Hopefully he can have a really big series for us against South Africa with the bat."
Warner made 21 and 28 in the second Test - after making 5 and 48 in Perth - to continue a lean run in Test cricket over the last two years where he is averaging just 28.12 without a century. He is due to play his 100th Test against South Africa in Melbourne at the end of the month, but questions are being asked as to whether he should be part of the tours to India and England where his record is poor with averages of 24.25 and 26.04 respectively.
"I didn't realise it was that lean, to be honest," former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, speaking on Channel 7 on Saturday, said of Warner's recent record. "Coming on for two years for a Test-match century. Four half-centuries in his last 26 innings.
"You talk about how things are getting tougher for Warner with the attack the South Africans have got. Well, it's never easy in India either. We know what wickets we will get there. We will get turning pitches. No doubt. It's never been easy for any Australian batsman going there and trying to play in those conditions. Then on the back of that, what's after that? The Ashes, in England as well. We will get conditions that will suit [Stuart] Broad, [James] Anderson and [Ollie] Robinson."
Smith, however, believed that more than anything Warner needed a change of luck to see the big runs return. One thing perhaps in his favour is that South Africa are among his most productive opponents with an average of 52.26 from 12 Tests including four centuries although that dips to 40.18 in Australia.
His dismissals in this series have been inside edges driving against Alzarri Joseph and Roston Chase, a nick to the keeper chasing a wide delivery, and a bat-pad catch to short leg.
"Davey's a once-in-a-generation player, he's arguably the best-ever opener for Australia," he said. "The way he's able to put pressure on bowlers from the outset helps everyone down the order as well.
"He's been an incredible player for a long period of time, his record suggest that. There's no reason why he can't have a big series for us coming this week as well. He's batting nicely. He hasn't had a great deal of luck lately either, it seems like every time he gets an inside edge, it goes onto the stumps. A lot of the time when you're scoring runs you need some luck.
"For me it's in his body language the way he goes out there - he's really positive and just in a good frame of mind. Particularly yesterday when he went out to bat he was in a good frame of mind, the way his feet were moving was really sharp."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo