SA v Aus

Published on March 30th, 2018 | by Sakshi Gupta

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#sandpapergate: David Warner, why?

Bad times for the Australian superstar. David Warner is in the soup. 

The Australian team is shattered. They suddenly have a new skipper. The upcoming Test against South Africa will be their head coach’s final assignment. They are trailing 1-2 in the ongoing Test series against South Africa and going into the final Test of the series, Australia will be without their best batsmen – Steven Smith and David Warner – apart from their opener Cameron Bancroft.

While Tim Paine is doing whatever he can to regroup the Australians at Johannesburg in an effort to avoid a series loss, Smith, Warner and Bancroft have returned to Australia. When the Australians will take field in the New Wanderers Stadium on Friday, the trio back home, will even struggle to live a normal routine. Fans have been considered one of the most significant parts of any sport and when a player loses their trust, nothing remains the same.

It was the fateful day of March 24 when a young Bancroft tried to change the condition of the ball using a “sandpaper” during the third day of the Cape Town Test against South Africa. I don’t know why the Australians thought they would escape before the cameras caught Bancroft red-handed tampering the ball. The whole world watched that because the big screen at the Newlands stadium showed the clipping again and again.

Soon after that, Australian head coach sent Peter Handscomb to alert Bancroft about his visuals on the screen. He conversed with the bench player on a walkie-talkie and that footage was later revealed too on the social media. Things kept getting ugly and by the end of the day, Bancroft and Smith addressed the restless media at the stadium and accepted the accusations of ball tampering. Apparently, Australian vice-captain and Bancroft’s opening partner Warner had come with his silly plan, with Captain Smith’s approval, when they saw they were unable to make a breakthrough and South Africans Adien Markram and AB de Villiers were building a huge lead.

The path has never been easy for Warner

More than Smith and Bancroft, Warner’s actions have left me baffled. His journey to become a recognised Test batsman has not been easy; history is the proof.

When Smith made his Test debut, unlike the usual Australian tendency of dragging themselves into numerous controversies, his initial stages of international were almost smooth. Ever since the time the team discovered that he could be a specialist batsman, he was always considered to be their future best batsman. Bancroft’s case was almost negligible as he made his debut just last November and does not even have 10 Tests to his name.

Meanwhile, the player among the guilty trio who had to cross several hurdles to come up to where he is right now was David Warner – the player who had transformed himself from having once “thuggish” behaviour to being referred as the team’s Reverend. Everyone who have followed his massive change in game and behaviour, on and off-field in the last few years, have been struggling to comprehend how could Warner even think of doing that?

David Warner. Image Courtesy: Stuff.co.nz

The guy has always been different from the lot; when he first took his steps into the Australian team, he was one of those rare guys to play for Australia even before playing First-Class cricket. He came from a very humble background; his childhood was tough as his family was not very well to do. “It wasn’t that my parents, Howard and Lorraine, didn’t work hard. They busted their backsides for me and older brother Steve. But you soon realised that, if you wanted something in life, fine … go earn it.”

He soon would realise that the little lesson he had learnt as a child would apply in his cricketing career too.

Warner came into the side as a T20 player and it took him some time to prove himself as a worthy batsman in the other two formats too. While that task was difficult in the first place and to top it off, Warner’s on and off-field behaviours had begun to irk the management. During the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, Warner was suspended by Cricket Australia (CA) for punching Joe Root. He even missed the subsequent three Ashes Tests as he was relegated to play in the A-side against Zimbabwe.

Although the New South Wales cricketer had defended his action by saying Root allegedly had said against Muslim players, there was no excuse to get violent. He then got involved in a Twitter fight with some Australia media journalists. In 2015, just before the World Cup, Warner attracted yet another controversy when he confronted Indian batsman Rohit Sharma to speak in English on the field. All these incidents kept making Warner’s career questionable as an international cricketer.

However, the cricketing world saw an all-together different Warner post his wedding with Australia’s iron-woman Candice Falzon. Later on they had two beautiful girls – Ivy Mae and Indie Rae – Warner’s social media posts have shown his immense love and attachment for his family. He quit drinking for good and to better himself as a person and cricketer. Three years into Test cricket, by the end of 2013, he only had scored five Test tons and never struck the 50-mark as an average. However, as his transformation took place, his batting graph consistently went upwards.

Good things begin

In the next two years (2014 and 2015), he recorded 10 Test centuries – almost four times of what he had until 2013. He was named ICC ODI cricketer of the year in 2016 and won the Alan Border medal for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017. In the meanwhile, he even led Sunrisers Hyderabad to their maiden IPL title in 2016 and by doing so he became only the third Australian, after Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist – to captain an IPL side to the title.

David Warner. Image Courtesy: Indian Express

Warner showed his real character when he stood up for the entire Australian team last year against their board in a pay dispute. On a Saturday morning in June, almost 200 Australian cricketers found themselves unemployed because CA failed to strike a new pay deal with the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) ahead of the 30 June. It was Warner with a couple of more cricketers who led the protest before finally CA had to bend down.
Now the question that has been troubling me and maybe, several others too – what made Warner blow away everything in the wake to get just one degree extra of reverse swing on March 24, 2018?

Warner, what difference that one degree could have caused in the result?

It was appalling!

One mistake

He was not among the players who were gifted or naturally best; obviously who better than him knew the unbelievable hard work he had put to become one of Australia’s current best Test batsmen. Warner’s terrible decision of ball tampering is the living example of how people ruin everything in a matter of a few seconds – when they take the wrong call.

He did not own up to it but he certainly has accepted all the accusations. It was Warner who plotted the idea of ball tampering. He is one of those guys in the current scenario of cricket with whom the generation connects. When Warner slog sweeps or switch hits, every budding cricketer wishes to do that. He is like a role model to so many children and not just in Australia. Courtesy of his successful stints in the IPL, he has a hell amount of followers in India too, who flood the stadiums to only watch him.

“I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused to the sport and its fans. It is a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy. I need to take a deep breath, spend time with my family, friends and trusted advisers. You will hear more from me,” Warner finally broke his silence on Thursday with this tweet.

Is CA hiding something?

Ever since this incident took place, the social media has flooded with people giving their opinions. So many experts including former players have admitted that ball tampering has been happening for a very long time; of course, smartly and not in a foolish way like Smith and Warner had executed. Although this fact still does not lessen their fault, but it shows that the harsh punishment given to the players does not connect with the depth of the mistake.

South African skipper Faf du Plessis was charged for ball tampering twice between 2013 and 2016. During Pakistan series in the UAE, du Plessis was charged 50 percent of his match fees when he was caught rubbing the ball on the zipper of his trousers on cameras. In 2016, during the Hobart Test against Australia, du Plessis was caught shining the ball using mint that he was chewing. Although he pleased not guilty, he anyway was charged 100 percent of his match fees. Sandwiched between these two incidents was Vernon Philander’s ball tampering incident where he lost 75 percent of his match fee against Sri Lanka in 2014. There have been more incidents of ball tampering but never has a player received a punishment as harsh as the one CA has handed Smith and Warner.

While Warner and Smith were slapped with a ban or a year each, Bancroft will be out of national and state action for nine months.

Why is CA being so harsh? 

Is it because they want to teach their boys a stern lesson about playing fair?

Or they just want to make this very clear -“Don’t mess with CA!” 

One of the two reasons for the ban is very clear – CA’s image is at stake. After the trio publicly confessed to ball tampering, CA was under pressure to set an example for the betterment of the future of the game. In addition to that, taking the financial aspect into consideration, CA had the sponsor at the back of their mind.

CA managed to get Gillette on board, who sponsored for the ODI series and Women T20I series between England and Australia earlier this year. But the biggest deal they had cracked was the 5-year $600 million broadcasting deal, which would come to an end this year. Not to forget Australia’s travel partner Quantas, who’s logo the Australian players don on their shirts. Their biggest fund comes from Magellan, who sponsored this edition of Ashes, which Australia won 4-0.

Nevertheless, the bans were not good enough to stop Magellan from tearing its partnership with CA. Even Warner and Smith have lost a couple of their personal sponsors.

There might be another reason for CA to be harsh by banning the duo for one whole year. It was Smith and Warner who had revolted against CA for the pay hike last year and this could be just a harsh way of CA to make their best players pay the pay for that. Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir was the first cricketer to point that out. “While cricket needs to be corruption-free but feels sanctions on Aussies bit harsh. Are @stevesmith49 & @davidwarner31 paying for revolt for pay hike? History has it administrators deride those who stand up for players’ cause. Classic case: Ian Chappell,” Gambhir wrote on his official Twitter page.

Give him time, he’ll return

If it was a genuine step from CA or it was a cheap tactic from the national board, regardless of the truth, whatever was to be done, is done. Players have accepted their mistakes, apologised with their whole heart and it’s time to leave them alone. They have a good amount of time to introspect themselves and become better human beings and cricketers. Smith and Warner put together are 138 Tests, their absence is going to elude two players from ICC’s top five best Test batsmen, and more than anything cricket would be hit. At no cost, can cricket let go of these guys. They need cricket and the vice-versa is equally valid.

It could get interesting if Smith and Warner go on to challenge their bans.

Anyway, these are just testing times in life and people who pass these are the ones who go big, professional or personal. These two certainly will be among those; they will learn from their mistakes, make full use of the free time to better than weaknesses in their game and more importantly, this incident will only make them a stronger person. When they return to action in April, 2019, they’ll have two major tasks ahead of them – World Cup and the Ashes – I can only imagine these two going berserk, trying to cover-up for the missed one year.

Not everyone is perfect; some learn from mistakes and work hard to touch the heights. Similarly, not every cricketer is a Sachin Tendulkar; his book was boring because it didn’t have anything else but series of world records. It won’t be the same with Warner and Smith, their book will not be boring. Give them time, they’ll be back!

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About the Author

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More than a sport, sports persons have kept her engaged in work. She is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy". She tweets @sakshi2929.



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