Infotainment Factory: The truth about Warner and Aussie cricket

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Tuesday, 1 January 2019

The truth about Warner and Aussie cricket


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In the immediate aftermath of the Cape Town ball tampering scandal that devastated Australian cricket, it was said that David Warner may never play for Australia again.

Warner’s teammates believed he had gone rogue. That he was prepared to throw them under the bus to deflect blame. That his abrasive personality finally outweighed his extraordinary talent.

But the following nine months has provided a wake-up call. Now, they are being welcomed back with open arms. Australian captain Tim Paine upped the ante in a column for The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, saying that Warner and fellow disgraced superstar Steve Smith would give the national team a significant boost with their return.

“In three months’ time, Steve Smith and David Warner will have served their bans and we will have available two world class batsmen who might be able to help other guys walk taller,” Paine wrote.

“Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh are two excellent experienced players who offer our group so much as it is, but the prospect of Smith and Warner returning could potentially boost the confidence of other players even further.”

Even if Australian cricket once pondered that it might be fair and reasonable to cut Warner adrift – a big ‘if’, given his behaviour was borne of a hyper-aggressive team culture that had long been encouraged – its pragmatic side could not do so.

The batting of the current Australian team is mediocre. Warner is world-class. A team that struggles to win due to a lack of world-class talent can hardly shun a player of Warner’s calibre, especially after he’s served his time with a one-year suspension.

As Shane Warne told Omnisport before the India Test series: "It can be uncomfortable coming back, but Australian cricket desperately need them (Warner and Steve Smith) back. There is not enough talent coming up to replace players of this standard.”

Spot on. Cameron Bancroft may have confirmed that Warner asked him to cheat, making his relationship with his former opening partner “untenable” (in Michael Slater’s words), but who do you think will be playing for Australia if selectors are forced to choose?

Warner has 6,363 Test runs at 48.20, with 21 centuries. Bancroft, six years his junior, has 402 Test runs at 30.92 with no centuries. Warner is a proven champion batsman, Bancroft a work in progress who has not distinguished himself from other opening batting hopefuls such as Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw.

In Warner's absence, Test opening batsmen Harris and Aaron Finch have averaged 29.50 and 16.16 against India with two 50s between them from three Tests. Warner averages 59.65 from 38 Tests in Australia, with 15 centuries and 12 half-centuries. No contest. 

Warner will be expected to get with the new program, showing less naked aggression towards opponents on the field and a reduced tendency to flirt with 'the line' of acceptable behaviour. He will no doubt have some awkward moments with teammates. Fellow leadership group members Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, in particular, were filthy at any implications they may have known about the Cape Town plot.

But Warner is not, it seems, fated to be an outcast. He's too good for that.

Since the Boxing Day Test put India up 2-1, both Paine and coach Justin Langer - the two men charged with leading a change in Aussie cricket culture - have confirmed that Warner and Smith are required players. Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts, no fan of Warner through the pay dispute, has confirmed that CA are looking at ODI matches against Pakistan in the UAE during March-April as comeback fixtures.

Langer said on New Year’s Eve that plans were being laid to welcome back Warner and Smith.

“We’re in touch with the boys all the time, there’s a really good process that we’re going to go through to get the boys back into the team,” he said.

The highest scorer for Australia against India this series is Travis Head, with 217 runs from  three Tests at 36.16, with a best of 72. Shamefully, he is the only Australian batsman averaging above 30, and Australia is at risk of going through a four-Test home series without a century-maker for the first time in 136 years.

While his impending return may irk some, including certain teammates, talk that Warner was expendable seems a distant memory.

"If you've got world-class players that aren't in your team, are they going to add to our team? I think they will," Paine said after Australia’s defeat at the MCG.

"We're getting towards the end when those guys are coming back. That's what the conversation should be around now.

"It's all been out there. People have had their say and the guys have nearly finished their bans and done their time so I think it's time we started focusing on the fact they're coming back and from that there are real positives."

Langer said that Australian cricket’s domestic competitions were not currently providing Test-ready batsmen.

“The results would suggest they’re not,” Langer said.

“Most of our batters now in Australia who are knocking on the door average in the 30s.

“Whether it’s the system … I’m not sure if it’s something in our psyche. I’m not sure specifically … but it would suggest that, the art of batting, we’ve got some work to do on it.”

Australia may bat Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne in the middle-order for the India series final in Sydney: a two-Test all-rounder who is the 27th-best batsman this Sheffield Shield season and the 36th-best bowler. His selection comes despite the following comment from Langer.

“We’ve probably got to be careful not to reward poor performances,” he said.

“But again, trust me – try being a selector at the moment. That’s part of our job, but it’s not as if the guys are absolutely banging the door down.

“Whether it’s in second grade to A-grade cricket … if you probably talk to some A-grade coaches at the moment, or second grade coaches: ‘Oh, we’re playing kids who probably don’t deserve to play A-grade or second grade.’

“But it’s where we’re at at the moment. It’s something everyone’s looking at and we want to work on getting better.”

Once Warner returned from South Africa, he tearfully took responsibility for his role in the ball tampering scandal. He has not spoken since and has dutifully copped his playing suspension on top of a life ban from leadership roles.

He is averaging 66 in Sydney grade cricket, with a pair of centuries this season for Randwick-Petersham. He is as ready as he can be to return to elite cricket.

Australia will be hoping he and Smith find form this year before the ODI World Cup and an Ashes tour of England. Smith, it seems, will return with more public goodwill than Warner.

Yet few now believe that Warner should cop any further punishment. The playing suspension he, Smith and Bancroft received was absolutely unprecedented for a ball tampering offence, after Cricket Australia went above and beyond the ICC’s verdict of a one-Test ban for Smith.

After Cape Town, the ICC elevated sanctions for ball tampering offences to allow for bans of up to six Test matches. Below is the pitiful list of sanctions that came before the Aussie trio (2000 onwards), including two slaps on the wrist for the opposing captain in the South Africa series, Faf du Plessis.

No other players have ever been suspended from Test cricket for ball tampering. Warner and Smith will have missed nine Tests by the end of their bans.

WAQAR YOUNIS & AZHAR MAHMOOD, July 2000: Both Pakistan players were caught on camera trying to alter the condition of the ball during an ODI match against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Waqar became the first player banned over ball tampering, outed for one ODI and fined 50 per cent of his match fee. Azhar was fined 30 per cent of his match fee.

SACHIN TENDULKAR, November 2001: India’s Little Master was caught on camera seemingly scuffing the seam of the ball during the second Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. He was given a suspended one-Test ban and fined 75 per cent of his match fee by match referee Mike Denness, but the sanction was dropped after uproar from India.

SHOAIB AKHTAR, November 2002: The Pakistan paceman escaped with an official warning after being found guilty of ball tampering in the first Test against Zimbabwe in Harare.

SHOAIB AKHTAR, May 2003: The big quick pleaded not guilty to his second offence in six months, but was found guilty for ball tampering in an ODI against New Zealand in Dambulla. He was banned for two ODIs and fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

RAHUL DRAVID, January 2004: The Indian legend was seen rubbing a cough lozenge on the shiny side of the ball in a triangular ODI series match against Zimbabwe in Brisbane. He was fined 50 per cent of his match fee.

INZAMAM UL-HAQ, August 2006: The only ball tampering scandal that come close to the Cape Town disaster. Pakistan were accused of ball tampering during the fourth Test against England at The Oval, and docked five penalty runs by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove. When Pakistan protested by refusing to come out after tea, the umpires awarded the match to England, effectively declaring a Pakistan forfeit. Captain Inzamam Ul-Haq was ultimately cleared of ball tampering but was banned for four ODI matches for bringing the game into disrepute.

SHAHID AFRIDI, January 2010: Perhaps the most flagrant ball tampering incident ever. Shahid was caught on camera biting the ball in order to change the seam during an ODI against Australia in Perth. He was banned for two T20 internationals.

FAF DU PLESSIS, October 2013: The South African was caught scuffing the ball on his trouser zip during the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai. Pakistan was awarded five penalty runs and du Plessis was fined 50 per cent of his match fee – which the Proteas believed was harsh.

VERNON PHILANDER, July 2014: The South African paceman was caught scratching at the ball with his fingers in the first Test in Sri Lanka. He was fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

FAF DU PLESSIS, November 2016: Another black mark for the South African captain, this time against Australia in Hobart during the second Test. Du Plessis was caught on camera using a breath mint to shine the ball and was fined 100 per cent of his match fee.

DUSAN SHANAKA, November 2017: The Sri Lankan quick was seen by the umpires picking at the seam with his fingers multiple times during the second Test against India in Nagpur. He copped three demerit points and was fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

SMITH, WARNER, BANCROFT, March 2018: Warner and Bancroft hatched a plot to rough the ball with sandpaper in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. After Bancroft was caught on camera with the sandpaper and Smith initially claimed that he was in on the plot, Bancroft was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and Smith banned for one Test by the ICC.

Cricket Australia went much harder. Though Smith later admitted he simply turned a blind eye, he was banned from playing for 12 months and from the Australian captaincy for two years. Warner was fingered as the ringleader, copping a 12-month playing ban and a lifetime suspension from leadership roles. Bancroft was banned from playing for nine months and has just resumed in the Big Bash League.

DINESH CHANDIMAL, June 2018: The Sri Lankan was caught using mint residue on the ball during the second Test of a West Indies tour. The Windies were awarded five penalty runs and Chandimal was banned for one Test, hot on the heels of the exiled Australian trio.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cape Town ball tampering scandal that devastated Australian cricket, it was said that David Warner may never play for Australia again.

Warner’s teammates believed he had gone rogue. That he was prepared to throw them under the bus to deflect blame. That his abrasive personality finally outweighed his extraordinary talent.

But the following nine months has provided a wake-up call. Now, they are being welcomed back with open arms. Australian captain Tim Paine upped the ante in a column for The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, saying that Warner and fellow disgraced superstar Steve Smith would give the national team a significant boost with their return.

“In three months’ time, Steve Smith and David Warner will have served their bans and we will have available two world class batsmen who might be able to help other guys walk taller,” Paine wrote.

“Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh are two excellent experienced players who offer our group so much as it is, but the prospect of Smith and Warner returning could potentially boost the confidence of other players even further.”

Even if Australian cricket once pondered that it might be fair and reasonable to cut Warner adrift – a big ‘if’, given his behaviour was borne of a hyper-aggressive team culture that had long been encouraged – its pragmatic side could not do so.

The batting of the current Australian team is mediocre. Warner is world-class. A team that struggles to win due to a lack of world-class talent can hardly shun a player of Warner’s calibre, especially after he’s served his time with a one-year suspension.

As Shane Warne told Omnisport before the India Test series: "It can be uncomfortable coming back, but Australian cricket desperately need them (Warner and Steve Smith) back. There is not enough talent coming up to replace players of this standard.”

Spot on. Cameron Bancroft may have confirmed that Warner asked him to cheat, making his relationship with his former opening partner “untenable” (in Michael Slater’s words), but who do you think will be playing for Australia if selectors are forced to choose?

Warner has 6,363 Test runs at 48.20, with 21 centuries. Bancroft, six years his junior, has 402 Test runs at 30.92 with no centuries. Warner is a proven champion batsman, Bancroft a work in progress who has not distinguished himself from other opening batting hopefuls such as Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw.

In Warner's absence, Test opening batsmen Harris and Aaron Finch have averaged 29.50 and 16.16 against India with two 50s between them from three Tests. Warner averages 59.65 from 38 Tests in Australia, with 15 centuries and 12 half-centuries. No contest. 

Warner will be expected to get with the new program, showing less naked aggression towards opponents on the field and a reduced tendency to flirt with 'the line' of acceptable behaviour. He will no doubt have some awkward moments with teammates. Fellow leadership group members Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, in particular, were filthy at any implications they may have known about the Cape Town plot.

But Warner is not, it seems, fated to be an outcast. He's too good for that.

Since the Boxing Day Test put India up 2-1, both Paine and coach Justin Langer - the two men charged with leading a change in Aussie cricket culture - have confirmed that Warner and Smith are required players. Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts, no fan of Warner through the pay dispute, has confirmed that CA are looking at ODI matches against Pakistan in the UAE during March-April as comeback fixtures.

Langer said on New Year’s Eve that plans were being laid to welcome back Warner and Smith.

“We’re in touch with the boys all the time, there’s a really good process that we’re going to go through to get the boys back into the team,” he said.

The highest scorer for Australia against India this series is Travis Head, with 217 runs from  three Tests at 36.16, with a best of 72. Shamefully, he is the only Australian batsman averaging above 30, and Australia is at risk of going through a four-Test home series without a century-maker for the first time in 136 years.

While his impending return may irk some, including certain teammates, talk that Warner was expendable seems a distant memory.

"If you've got world-class players that aren't in your team, are they going to add to our team? I think they will," Paine said after Australia’s defeat at the MCG.

"We're getting towards the end when those guys are coming back. That's what the conversation should be around now.

"It's all been out there. People have had their say and the guys have nearly finished their bans and done their time so I think it's time we started focusing on the fact they're coming back and from that there are real positives."

Langer said that Australian cricket’s domestic competitions were not currently providing Test-ready batsmen.

“The results would suggest they’re not,” Langer said.

“Most of our batters now in Australia who are knocking on the door average in the 30s.

“Whether it’s the system … I’m not sure if it’s something in our psyche. I’m not sure specifically … but it would suggest that, the art of batting, we’ve got some work to do on it.”

Australia may bat Queenslander Marnus Labuschagne in the middle-order for the India series final in Sydney: a two-Test all-rounder who is the 27th-best batsman this Sheffield Shield season and the 36th-best bowler. His selection comes despite the following comment from Langer.

“We’ve probably got to be careful not to reward poor performances,” he said.

“But again, trust me – try being a selector at the moment. That’s part of our job, but it’s not as if the guys are absolutely banging the door down.

“Whether it’s in second grade to A-grade cricket … if you probably talk to some A-grade coaches at the moment, or second grade coaches: ‘Oh, we’re playing kids who probably don’t deserve to play A-grade or second grade.’

“But it’s where we’re at at the moment. It’s something everyone’s looking at and we want to work on getting better.”

Once Warner returned from South Africa, he tearfully took responsibility for his role in the ball tampering scandal. He has not spoken since and has dutifully copped his playing suspension on top of a life ban from leadership roles.

He is averaging 66 in Sydney grade cricket, with a pair of centuries this season for Randwick-Petersham. He is as ready as he can be to return to elite cricket.

Australia will be hoping he and Smith find form this year before the ODI World Cup and an Ashes tour of England. Smith, it seems, will return with more public goodwill than Warner.

Yet few now believe that Warner should cop any further punishment. The playing suspension he, Smith and Bancroft received was absolutely unprecedented for a ball tampering offence, after Cricket Australia went above and beyond the ICC’s verdict of a one-Test ban for Smith.

After Cape Town, the ICC elevated sanctions for ball tampering offences to allow for bans of up to six Test matches. Below is the pitiful list of sanctions that came before the Aussie trio (2000 onwards), including two slaps on the wrist for the opposing captain in the South Africa series, Faf du Plessis.

No other players have ever been suspended from Test cricket for ball tampering. Warner and Smith will have missed nine Tests by the end of their bans.

WAQAR YOUNIS & AZHAR MAHMOOD, July 2000: Both Pakistan players were caught on camera trying to alter the condition of the ball during an ODI match against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Waqar became the first player banned over ball tampering, outed for one ODI and fined 50 per cent of his match fee. Azhar was fined 30 per cent of his match fee.

SACHIN TENDULKAR, November 2001: India’s Little Master was caught on camera seemingly scuffing the seam of the ball during the second Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. He was given a suspended one-Test ban and fined 75 per cent of his match fee by match referee Mike Denness, but the sanction was dropped after uproar from India.

SHOAIB AKHTAR, November 2002: The Pakistan paceman escaped with an official warning after being found guilty of ball tampering in the first Test against Zimbabwe in Harare.

SHOAIB AKHTAR, May 2003: The big quick pleaded not guilty to his second offence in six months, but was found guilty for ball tampering in an ODI against New Zealand in Dambulla. He was banned for two ODIs and fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

RAHUL DRAVID, January 2004: The Indian legend was seen rubbing a cough lozenge on the shiny side of the ball in a triangular ODI series match against Zimbabwe in Brisbane. He was fined 50 per cent of his match fee.

INZAMAM UL-HAQ, August 2006: The only ball tampering scandal that come close to the Cape Town disaster. Pakistan were accused of ball tampering during the fourth Test against England at The Oval, and docked five penalty runs by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove. When Pakistan protested by refusing to come out after tea, the umpires awarded the match to England, effectively declaring a Pakistan forfeit. Captain Inzamam Ul-Haq was ultimately cleared of ball tampering but was banned for four ODI matches for bringing the game into disrepute.

SHAHID AFRIDI, January 2010: Perhaps the most flagrant ball tampering incident ever. Shahid was caught on camera biting the ball in order to change the seam during an ODI against Australia in Perth. He was banned for two T20 internationals.

FAF DU PLESSIS, October 2013: The South African was caught scuffing the ball on his trouser zip during the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai. Pakistan was awarded five penalty runs and du Plessis was fined 50 per cent of his match fee – which the Proteas believed was harsh.

VERNON PHILANDER, July 2014: The South African paceman was caught scratching at the ball with his fingers in the first Test in Sri Lanka. He was fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

FAF DU PLESSIS, November 2016: Another black mark for the South African captain, this time against Australia in Hobart during the second Test. Du Plessis was caught on camera using a breath mint to shine the ball and was fined 100 per cent of his match fee.

DUSAN SHANAKA, November 2017: The Sri Lankan quick was seen by the umpires picking at the seam with his fingers multiple times during the second Test against India in Nagpur. He copped three demerit points and was fined 75 per cent of his match fee.

SMITH, WARNER, BANCROFT, March 2018: Warner and Bancroft hatched a plot to rough the ball with sandpaper in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. After Bancroft was caught on camera with the sandpaper and Smith initially claimed that he was in on the plot, Bancroft was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and Smith banned for one Test by the ICC.

Cricket Australia went much harder. Though Smith later admitted he simply turned a blind eye, he was banned from playing for 12 months and from the Australian captaincy for two years. Warner was fingered as the ringleader, copping a 12-month playing ban and a lifetime suspension from leadership roles. Bancroft was banned from playing for nine months and has just resumed in the Big Bash League.

DINESH CHANDIMAL, June 2018: The Sri Lankan was caught using mint residue on the ball during the second Test of a West Indies tour. The Windies were awarded five penalty runs and Chandimal was banned for one Test, hot on the heels of the exiled Australian trio.

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