“Drink within your boundaries,” said a pre-recorded Michael Clarke on the Edgbaston big screen a few moments before the match against New Zealand. It’s possible he said it before the game on Saturday as well. Clarke is currently in London, getting intensive treatment on his back. Had he been in Birmingham, he may have been powerless to stop Warner from getting in trouble.
Despite what David Gower said, Australia does have culture, and at the moment that culture is toxic.
It’s easy to overreact to a man punching an opponent a few hours after a game. Or even to take that one problem, and extrapolate it so that the system and all players are to blame. Young people today, eh. Wasn’t like this in my day. These kids are running wild.
But Warner’s punch isn’t a one off for him, and many young Aussie players are doing things that are either blatantly stupid, or amazingly unprofessional way too often over the last couple of years. It’s as if Australian cricket has turned into a giant crèche. Some of these things can be explained by Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting retiring, but it’s deeper than that, and was around even before they left.
Brad Haddin’s recall to the side, despite his replacement Matthew Wade averaging pretty much the same, shows that CA knows there is a problem. But bringing back one father figure isn’t enough, this problem runs deep.
In this team is Mitchell Marsh. Marsh arrived at the cricket academy out of shape, he was almost sent home straight away. Eventually he was kicked out for being unfit to train after a big night out. That was July last year. A few months later, in October, Marsh was left out of a Champions League match for Perth Scorchers because his 21st birthday celebrations meant he wasn’t in a fit state to play. His brother Shaun Marsh was also dropped from that game for the same incident.
Their former Western Australian team-mate, Luke Pomersbach, was in trouble during IPL 2012 when he was detained by police for alleged assault. The case was eventually settled out of court. Pomersbach has more than enough batting talent to slip into any of the three Australian sides.
Allrounder Daniel Christian was suspended after damaging not one, or even two, but three separate changerooms during the last Sheffield Shield season. Christian was fined and warned during the first two incidents, but still committed the third act.
Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Usman Khawaja were suspended from one Test in India after they didn’t provide any plans on how they or the team could improve. Watson, the then vice-captain, left the tour straight after the incident, for the birth of his child. That followed on from the World Twenty20, where a player was heard undermining the captain George Bailey to opposition players.
Young Queensland batsman Chris Lynn was fined for attacking the alleged victim in an assault case on Twitter. Saying “She should serve 2 months in jail for her make up! #booyah”. Lynn later apologised and noted, “Violence against women is not acceptable and I’m sorry that my words could been seen to condone that.” Even Shane Warne was running around the Big Bash League, throwing balls at people and making a fool of himself.
Now there is Warner. Before last weekend, Warner’s off-field history was fairly minor. Some bad tweeting with Brett Geeves a few years back, rumours of a personal curfew, perhaps some skinfold issues and being sent home from the academy for untidiness are hardly crimes. And neither is arguing with some press on Twitter. Sure, as a contracted player he was stupid to swear, but I am sure many players and journalists have sworn at each other in bars without us ever having to know about it.
A punishment will not do. A punishment won’t stop the cause. These players have been warned, fined and suspended; they are still making mistakes, still being unprofessional and still making it harder for Australia to win matches
This latest incident is not fully known. And in some ways it’s barely an incident. It took days to hit the press. Joe Root’s jaw is undamaged. Perhaps Warner had a few too many one quid vodka and redbulls at the wrong time of night and did something stupid. But he did try to punch an opposition player. It is far worse than breaking a door in a changeroom or failing to fill in some feedback reports.
In the past, events like this happened all the time. A player gets a bit stroppy when he goes out. A young player enjoys the good life a bit much. A player is involved in a late night incident that he should’ve steered clear of. A player bad mouths his captain.
In the 1970s, it would have been sorted out, and the player would now be doing after dinner speaking about the good old days. On Sky talking about his days, which were fairly recent, Jason Gillespie said, “If you stepped out of line off the field, you got into strife from the captain and the coach.”
So how has Australia regressed since then? How is that a potential captain of the Australian team, in CA’s own words, can take a swing at another player? I don’t expect James Sutherland to be standing in the bar making sure Warner doesn’t do anything stupid.
Culture is not an easy thing to fix. But this has happened under CA’s watch. It has happened after their Argus review. It is effecting their marketing off the field. It is effecting their performance on it. They must find the problems and fix them.
A punishment will not do. A punishment won’t stop the cause. These players have been warned, fined and suspended; they are still making mistakes, still being unprofessional and still making it harder for Australia to win matches.
Ex-cricketers were quick to abuse Pat Howard and Mickey Arthur for treating players like school kids. But they’re acting like them, consistently. It’s time for CA to look at the what is wrong with their current crop of cricketers. Or what is wrong with CA itself. This is a team that is losing on the field, and losing off of it.
This is 2013, if you want to be the best team in the world, you can’t afford to be anything but professional. South Africa is the best side in the world, they are the best behaved, led, managed and performed in the world. Their players don’t get caught in scandals, their team just works as hard as it can to win every match. They even managed to improve while their was a scandal around their board.
This Australian set up is not behaving, the leadership is not around, the management is not working and the team is not performing.
Point no. 4 on CA’s new strategy for cricket to become Australia’s leading sport is, “Provide world-class leadership and management and unify Australian Cricket”. This is the time when CA proves that is not some lip service that looks good on a plaque in their offices.
Clarke has not attended any of Australia’ games in this tournament. The only cricket he has attended was Shane Warne’s charity match on Sunday in the Cotwolds, a couple of hours from London. Warner was also there.
After Warner’s twitter moment, Clarke said to the press, “Davey has great potential to be a leader of the Australian cricket team, he’s a wonderful guy, he’s a wonderful player, I know he’s learnt from this”. That was only a few weeks back.
Whatever Warner did learn, it didn’t seem to help him early Sunday morning.