IF anything highlights the messy position David Warner finds himself in as he serves time in cricket limbo, it was the reaction to his bizarre walk-off during a Sydney grade cricket match on Saturday.
The former Aussie opener, who is playing for Randwick Petersham during his 12-month ban for his role in the ball tampering scandal, left the field mid-innings because he was upset at comments made by Western Suburbs player Jason Hughes — the brother of deceased former Test star Phillip Hughes. He returned to the crease after a couple of minutes and went on to score 157.
Warner’s wife Candice said her husband was “taken aback” by Hughes’ comments and agreed when asked on Channel 9 if Warner left the field to prevent himself “blowing up”.
“He didn’t like what he was hearing and where that could have been taken,” she said.
Hughes reportedly told Warner: “You’re a disgrace, you shouldn’t be playing cricket.” In a statement, Wests denied Hughes said anything to Warner about Phillip.
Read: Angry response in Warner sledge storm
Plenty of commentators have since had their say on Warner’s behaviour. Former first class cricketer Kim Hagdorn and sports reporter Richard Hinds were among those to criticise the 32-year-old’s hypocrisy.
Warner can’t escape the spotlight.Source:News Corp Australia
Hagdorn called the walk-off “sooky” on 6PR radio and Hinds, speaking on ABC program Offsiders, said Warner should have stood his ground.
“I’m not sure how many players David Warner’s sledged in the past would have been given much sympathy if they’d walked off,” Hinds said. “He did the wrong thing. Walking off the field in that situation is not the right thing, it’s the wrong thing.”
Warner’s reputation as Australia’s attack dog who had no trouble ferociously sledging opposition players — a reputation he is trying to shed in the wake of the ball tampering scandal — ensures he can’t expect any sympathy.
Plenty will use Warner’s walk-off to accuse him of being able to dish abuse out but unable to take it. You can hardly blame them.
Even NRL great Matty Johns joined the debate, telling the Triple M Grill Team if Warner didn’t like being sledged he shouldn’t have been so vocal on the field during the career. “If you don’t like being sledged, you don’t sledge. Bottom line,” Johns said.
Savaged after the events in South Africa, where he was fingered as the ring leader responsible for tampering with the ball, Warner is trying to change and curb his aggressive ways. Saturday was evidence he is learning to do just that, but it won’t be enough to appease the naysayers. Not yet, at least.
David Warner walking off in the middle of an innings in protest at sledging! Irony might not come back from this. pic.twitter.com/HtKhZ2jpMu
David Warner walks off “after taking issue with a sledge directed his way.” Maybe just leave that one there. https://t.co/iSSgqWuRtT
Not everyone has hated on Warner, though. Some have praised him for turning his back and removing himself from a potentially volatile situation — a decision the old David Warner would never have made.
I’ve got no issue with David Warner walking off the field in grade cricket yesterday. It could have turned very ugly if things floating around about what Jason Hughes said are on the money and Warner hit back. #cricket
Warner was between a rock and a hard place on Saturday. Clearly, he felt he was too upset to just keep his mouth shut and continue batting — what many cricket players and fans would consider a normal course of action.
So what were the alternatives? Sledge Hughes back and be branded an arrogant tosser, or walk away and, as we’ve seen, be labelled a sook. He was never going to win.
“He’s a confused guy at the moment,” cricket writer for The Australian Peter Lalor told Offsiders. “Their brains are scrambled by the situation they’re in.”
It’s been more than six months since Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft received their bans but while you get the feeling Smith and Bancroft would be welcomed back with open arms, Warner’s road to redemption is a much different one.
Australia felt Smith and Bancroft’s pain when they gave emotional press conferences revealing their remorse upon returning home from South Africa. After reviews into Cricket Australia and team culture were released yesterday the Australian Cricketers Association has demanded the stars to have their bans lifted while Steve Waugh, Shane Warne and Darren Lehmann are among those to have pushed for the players to be allowed back on the field.
You get the feeling few would begrudge Smith and Bancroft being brought back into the national team but there might be more unease about Warner’s return.
The reaction after he touched down in Sydney from South Africa was far more icy than that reserved for his two teammates. While Smith and Bancroft were lauded for their emotion and honesty, the left-hander was slammed for failing to dish every detail about what went on in Cape Town and for treating his press conference like a PR stunt. It’s like he was being held to a different standard.
Read: Australia forgives Smith and Bancroft but not Warner
The confronting truth facing Warner right now, as shown by his divisive exit on Saturday, is he’s further away than he would hope from regaining Australia’s trust. Smith, who has been speaking at schools about what he’s learnt from his experience and Bancroft, a likeable rookie many believe was steered down the wrong path by Warner, have goodwill in the bank. Warner doesn’t.
All he can do for now is score runs — and he’s had no trouble doing that, racking up two scores of 150-plus for Randwick Petersham this summer. However, the harsh reality is while bulk runs might win him back his spot at the top of the Australian batting order, they might not win him Australia’s respect.
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