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Monday, 29 October 2018

Smith, Warner timebombs after cricket review


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The culture of Australian cricket has been exposed in damning terms and despite broad and explosive findings of an official review, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are still the only guilty faces of the South African cheating scandal.

The three players will remain banned from playing for now, wiping Smith and Warner out of the Australian summer. Those top Cricket Australia officials still in office, most notably chairman David Peever, have refused to fall on their sword despite overseeing a poisonous environment that was found to have infected the Test team as it came to disgrace.

So what now, especially for Smith and Warner? Here are some of the implications that remain as ticking time bombs in the Australian team.

SMITH BLACK-LISTED, NEXT CAPTAINS

By washing its hands of direct accountability, the hierarchy of Cricket Australia has made it all but impossible for Smith to ever return to a leadership position.

Australian fans may rejoice when the premier batsman in the country again walks out to bat in a green helmet, having served his one-year ban, but it is unfathomable that they will accept him as captain again now he has been consigned to history - officially, by his own governing body - as the man to blame.

“I don’t think Steve Smith will come back into calculations as captain,” Shane Warne told the BBC this month.

On the bald numbers, that is bad news for his batting.

In 34 matches as captain, Smith has averaged a supreme 70.36, including 15 centuries. Without the captaincy, Smith averaged 52.92; still excellent, but a major drop nonetheless.

Who knows if Smith will ever return to the historic performances we have seen since becoming Test captain in 2015?

Paine: CA review not about blame

His black-listing is also problematic for the leadership of the team, in the longer term.

Beyond Tim Paine, Cricket Australia flagged interest in the captaincy potential of Mitchell Marsh by naming him as a joint vice-captain for the recent Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. As he often has, Marsh underperformed; he made 30 runs at 7.5 and took two wickets at 49 in the two-match series, which Australia lost 1-0.

The other vice-captain, Josh Hazlewood, appears unlikely to step up as captain given that fast-bowlers are rarely granted the job; he was made a deputy on strength of character.

Another option, Aaron Finch, has captaincy experience with the Australian limited overs teams but is nearly 32 and averages just 36 across a decade of first-class cricket, casting doubt on his Test bonafides despite a reasonable debut series in the UAE.

Smith is 29, theoretically still in his prime, but appears destined for a rare and awkward future in the Australian team as a deposed captain with no way back.

SMITH v PAINE

Current captain Tim Paine made a quite extraordinary revelation when addressing the review findings on Monday.

He said that he had felt compelled to tell Smith, upon winning a Test recall under the most unlikely circumstances last year, that the culture of Australian team was headed down an undesirable path.

"I was having conversations with Steve Smith about that when I first came back into the team," Paine said.

"We just got a little bit wrapped up in our self-importance.

"It's not our cricket team. It's Australia's cricket team and I think for a little while we lost that.

"It's about giving back to our fans. Getting outside our bubble and trying to grow the game a little bit more, think more of others."

It was a startling remark to make to the superstar captain, given Paine’s standing at the time, and a firm rebuke of how the Australian team had behaved under Smith.

How Smith will co-exist with Paine, who has made it clear that he intends to keep the captaincy indefinitely, will be fascinating. Smith - who could return for the away Ashes series in August 2019, following the one-day World Cup - is far from an abrasive character but finds himself in an unprecedented and difficult position.

And then, there is David Warner.

WARNER FRAGILITY

Form-wise, Warner appears to be doing as well as humanly possible during his Australian exile, whacking hundreds in grade cricket and keeping up an elite fitness regimen.

But he has also become the object of fresh scorn after walking from the field mid-innings during a weekend grade fixture, in which he was allegedly called a “disgrace” by the brother of late Australian Test teammate Phillip Hughes.

Warner returned to make a century but may have plenty more chirping to look forward to, given that Sydney grade cricket is essentially the wild west when it comes to dishing out nasty sledges.

Often the bully on the field, Warner has shown himself susceptible to return fire, having also been through an ugly stoush with Proteas foe Quinton de Kock during the ill-fated South Africa tour.

Just what condition his temper will be in should he return to the Australian team will be intriguing, especially given he is a far more combustible personality than Smith. Warner, who fancied himself as a leader, was banned from holding Australian captaincy positions post-South Africa.

Early claims that Warner’s days of representing Australia are over have certainly thawed in the months since his downfall, but he has an extremely difficult return assignment. The left-handed opener may be thrust straight back into the pressure cooker of an away Ashes series, having averaged just 37 over his eight Tests in England thus far.

England captain Joe Root has predicted a hostile reception for Warner, already a loathed figure in the Old Dart thanks to past transgressions.

Scathing review calls CA 'arrogant'

SUMMER & ASHES

The Australian Cricketers Association on Tuesday declared that Cricket Australia had a “moral obligation” to lift the playing bans on Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the wake of the review.

“Let them play,” ACA president Greg Dyer said.

It is a growing sentiment across Australia, especially after the emotional apologies offered by the players on their return from South Africa.

Just imagine that Australia loses the first Test to India, starting December 6 at the Adelaide Oval. Calls for Smith and Warner to return will grow deafening, potentially becoming the overriding storyline of what should be a marquee summer series against Virat Kohli and company.

Having just completed a massive broadcast rights deal with Channel 7 and FOX Sports, CA executive and their television partners will be sweating on strong interest from the Australian public, which may be hard to come by with the Australian team’s two biggest stars sidelined. Bums on seats will also be an issue, especially with India having refused to play the first Test in the wildly-popular day/night format.

Australia will be relying on fresh faces standing up to fill the void and the dress rehearsal in the UAE was not promising. Only incumbent top-order batsman Usman Khawaja starred against Pakistan, before suffering a left knee injury that requires surgery and has him in doubt for the first Test against India.

Beyond the home summer, the Aussies appear long odds to topple England on swinging, seaming decks for the away Ashes. Even Smith has had a relatively difficult time playing Test cricket in England, averaging 47 across 10 matches.

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/1056828432670248961

WOMEN’S TEAM

Cricket Australia held the press conference announcing the findings of the review just as the Australian women’s team was beginning a Twenty20 match against Pakistan, in which they completed a 3-0 series whitewash.

Let that sink in. Would they ever level that kind of thoughtless disrespect at the Australian men’s team? Unequivocally, no.

For a press conference speaking about culture and respect in Australian cricket, it was a bizarre oversight.

The Australian women’s team is one week away from commencing its World Twenty20 campaign and is ranked world No.1 in both limited-overs formats. The men’s team is currently ranked fifth in Test cricket, sixth in ODIs and third in T20 internationals.

The culture of Australian cricket has been exposed in damning terms and despite broad and explosive findings of an official review, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are still the only guilty faces of the South African cheating scandal.

The three players will remain banned from playing for now, wiping Smith and Warner out of the Australian summer. Those top Cricket Australia officials still in office, most notably chairman David Peever, have refused to fall on their sword despite overseeing a poisonous environment that was found to have infected the Test team as it came to disgrace.

So what now, especially for Smith and Warner? Here are some of the implications that remain as ticking time bombs in the Australian team.

SMITH BLACK-LISTED, NEXT CAPTAINS

By washing its hands of direct accountability, the hierarchy of Cricket Australia has made it all but impossible for Smith to ever return to a leadership position.

Australian fans may rejoice when the premier batsman in the country again walks out to bat in a green helmet, having served his one-year ban, but it is unfathomable that they will accept him as captain again now he has been consigned to history - officially, by his own governing body - as the man to blame.

“I don’t think Steve Smith will come back into calculations as captain,” Shane Warne told the BBC this month.

On the bald numbers, that is bad news for his batting.

In 34 matches as captain, Smith has averaged a supreme 70.36, including 15 centuries. Without the captaincy, Smith averaged 52.92; still excellent, but a major drop nonetheless.

Who knows if Smith will ever return to the historic performances we have seen since becoming Test captain in 2015?

Paine: CA review not about blame

His black-listing is also problematic for the leadership of the team, in the longer term.

Beyond Tim Paine, Cricket Australia flagged interest in the captaincy potential of Mitchell Marsh by naming him as a joint vice-captain for the recent Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. As he often has, Marsh underperformed; he made 30 runs at 7.5 and took two wickets at 49 in the two-match series, which Australia lost 1-0.

The other vice-captain, Josh Hazlewood, appears unlikely to step up as captain given that fast-bowlers are rarely granted the job; he was made a deputy on strength of character.

Another option, Aaron Finch, has captaincy experience with the Australian limited overs teams but is nearly 32 and averages just 36 across a decade of first-class cricket, casting doubt on his Test bonafides despite a reasonable debut series in the UAE.

Smith is 29, theoretically still in his prime, but appears destined for a rare and awkward future in the Australian team as a deposed captain with no way back.

SMITH v PAINE

Current captain Tim Paine made a quite extraordinary revelation when addressing the review findings on Monday.

He said that he had felt compelled to tell Smith, upon winning a Test recall under the most unlikely circumstances last year, that the culture of Australian team was headed down an undesirable path.

"I was having conversations with Steve Smith about that when I first came back into the team," Paine said.

"We just got a little bit wrapped up in our self-importance.

"It's not our cricket team. It's Australia's cricket team and I think for a little while we lost that.

"It's about giving back to our fans. Getting outside our bubble and trying to grow the game a little bit more, think more of others."

It was a startling remark to make to the superstar captain, given Paine’s standing at the time, and a firm rebuke of how the Australian team had behaved under Smith.

How Smith will co-exist with Paine, who has made it clear that he intends to keep the captaincy indefinitely, will be fascinating. Smith - who could return for the away Ashes series in August 2019, following the one-day World Cup - is far from an abrasive character but finds himself in an unprecedented and difficult position.

And then, there is David Warner.

WARNER FRAGILITY

Form-wise, Warner appears to be doing as well as humanly possible during his Australian exile, whacking hundreds in grade cricket and keeping up an elite fitness regimen.

But he has also become the object of fresh scorn after walking from the field mid-innings during a weekend grade fixture, in which he was allegedly called a “disgrace” by the brother of late Australian Test teammate Phillip Hughes.

Warner returned to make a century but may have plenty more chirping to look forward to, given that Sydney grade cricket is essentially the wild west when it comes to dishing out nasty sledges.

Often the bully on the field, Warner has shown himself susceptible to return fire, having also been through an ugly stoush with Proteas foe Quinton de Kock during the ill-fated South Africa tour.

Just what condition his temper will be in should he return to the Australian team will be intriguing, especially given he is a far more combustible personality than Smith. Warner, who fancied himself as a leader, was banned from holding Australian captaincy positions post-South Africa.

Early claims that Warner’s days of representing Australia are over have certainly thawed in the months since his downfall, but he has an extremely difficult return assignment. The left-handed opener may be thrust straight back into the pressure cooker of an away Ashes series, having averaged just 37 over his eight Tests in England thus far.

England captain Joe Root has predicted a hostile reception for Warner, already a loathed figure in the Old Dart thanks to past transgressions.

Scathing review calls CA 'arrogant'

SUMMER & ASHES

The Australian Cricketers Association on Tuesday declared that Cricket Australia had a “moral obligation” to lift the playing bans on Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the wake of the review.

“Let them play,” ACA president Greg Dyer said.

It is a growing sentiment across Australia, especially after the emotional apologies offered by the players on their return from South Africa.

Just imagine that Australia loses the first Test to India, starting December 6 at the Adelaide Oval. Calls for Smith and Warner to return will grow deafening, potentially becoming the overriding storyline of what should be a marquee summer series against Virat Kohli and company.

Having just completed a massive broadcast rights deal with Channel 7 and FOX Sports, CA executive and their television partners will be sweating on strong interest from the Australian public, which may be hard to come by with the Australian team’s two biggest stars sidelined. Bums on seats will also be an issue, especially with India having refused to play the first Test in the wildly-popular day/night format.

Australia will be relying on fresh faces standing up to fill the void and the dress rehearsal in the UAE was not promising. Only incumbent top-order batsman Usman Khawaja starred against Pakistan, before suffering a left knee injury that requires surgery and has him in doubt for the first Test against India.

Beyond the home summer, the Aussies appear long odds to topple England on swinging, seaming decks for the away Ashes. Even Smith has had a relatively difficult time playing Test cricket in England, averaging 47 across 10 matches.

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/1056828432670248961

WOMEN’S TEAM

Cricket Australia held the press conference announcing the findings of the review just as the Australian women’s team was beginning a Twenty20 match against Pakistan, in which they completed a 3-0 series whitewash.

Let that sink in. Would they ever level that kind of thoughtless disrespect at the Australian men’s team? Unequivocally, no.

For a press conference speaking about culture and respect in Australian cricket, it was a bizarre oversight.

The Australian women’s team is one week away from commencing its World Twenty20 campaign and is ranked world No.1 in both limited-overs formats. The men’s team is currently ranked fifth in Test cricket, sixth in ODIs and third in T20 internationals.

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