Sport

Cricket: David Warner and the dark side of the boom

By Antoinette Muller 13 June 2013

David Warner is all over the headlines, once again for all the wrong reasons. An incident with an England player saw the opening batsman dropped from the Australian team for their match against New Zealand on Wednesday. There’ll be jokes aplenty, but one can only hope that along with a severe punishment, somebody is having a quiet word with him. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

The dust around David Warner’s recent Twitter outburst has hardly settled, and now he’s back in the headlines for the wrong reasons again. This time it’s for an altercation with Joe Root on Sunday night, with details of the incident being vaguely amusing at best.

The Mirror reported that – and bear with us while we try to put this in a way that doesn’t sound ridiculous – Warner apparently took a dislike to a wig Root was wearing, tugged on it, and then smacked Root across the face. Root never retaliated, but Warner carried on being Warner. And although he has since apologised, unbecoming behaviour – as his Cricket Board so eloquently puts it – is becoming synonymous with the opener.

Cricket Australia responded by dropping him from the side for Australia’s game against New Zealand, and while that’s all good and well, Warner might need more help than a mere slap on the wrist.

One has seen the story before – of the sports star drinking and misbehaving, falling from grace. Many such cases could have been prevented if only the warning signs were acted upon quickly. To suggest that Warner might suffer from some mental turmoil would be irresponsible, certainly, but the possibility should not be dismissed out of hand, either, by those who are close to him.

It is an oversimplification to suggest that his behaviour is “just what 20-somethings do”, especially when the 20-something in question is an elite sportsman who has been struggling with performance. Some of his behaviour might be linked to a lack of maturity, but why should it be accepted that this kind of incident is bog-standard behaviour for modern society?

Of course, many 20-somethings misbehave and go unnoticed, and Warner is unfortunate that his ill-behaviour is in the spotlight because of his profession, but that’s no reason to disregard that there could be a bigger problem. There certainly is a problem with the current cricket culture in Australia – as pointed out by Jarrod Kimber on Cricinfo, there is a serious issue with discipline in the Australian set-up, and it runs deep and across the board.

Even if he doesn’t want it, somebody needs to take responsibility for Warner and encourage him to talk about whatever the underlying problem is. It could be something as simple as feeling frustrated with being out of form and favour. It could also be something more. It might not solve anything, but talking to Warner about his recent misbehaviours will at least shed some light of what’s going on in his brain.

The incident involving Joe Root is not the first case of Warner misbehaving, it’s only the first reported one. It’s understood that he’s previously been involved in incidents which were covered up, and considering it took until Tuesday for the news to break, one has to question whether the same wasn’t happening in this case.

Most alarmingly, Cricket Australia was aware of the incident after it had happened, captain George Bailey admitted that much, but it was only after a newspaper broke the news that CA responded and noted that they were “aware of the incident” and Warner was subsequently dropped from the starting XI.

It’s easy to speculate that perhaps management was trying to spare Warner further embarrassment. But with the cat now out of the bag, even if Warner is handed the harshest punishment, which he should be, one can only hope that  somebody is there to have a word in his ear or at least nudge him in the direction of pulling himself together.

There’s no doubt Warner will be punished for what he did. A hefty fine and – at worst – being sent home from the Champions Trophy and the upcoming Ashes series would be as bad as it gets for him. And of course he should be reprimanded, since, just like any employee working for any organisation, he has the responsibility to represent that organisation positively and adhere to a certain code of conduct.

There might be nothing more to Warner’s lashing out than his simply being fed up with everything, but in the era of modern sport, where sports psychologists and mental conditioning coaches make up half of the team, isn’t it astounding that things have already deteriorated this far for Australia? DM

Photo: Australia’s David Warner hits a six off the bowling of Sri Lanka ‘s captain Angelo Mathews during their Twenty/20 international cricket match at the Homebush Stadium January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Christo

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