The evidence for David Warner’s rogue-going is that (a) he was sitting on his own at one point and (b) he drank Champagne with friends who weren’t cricketers.
Based on this, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we have also gone rogue, because (a) sounds rather lovely while (b) is definitely something we’ve done at weddings and female birthdays.
What is however stated less explicitly is (c) a general vibe that Warner is distancing himself from the team and is also kind of furious. Unnamed players have warned that there could be an ‘incident’ (which, admittedly, could just mean that one or two of them want to lamp him) and there’s a sense that throughout the tour he’s been gradually drifting further and further into Davidwarnerland where David Warner makes the laws and David Warner enforces the laws and everyone else is somehow in the wrong.
If you’re reading articles elsewhere today, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a sentence along the lines of “there’s a growing feeling that Warner was the ringleader” and this probably feels fairly credible to you.
Let’s bulletpoint the circumstantial evidence.
The third of those is probably the only one that’s truly of relevance because we all know there are plenty of arseholes who don’t tamper with cricket balls.
Several UK newspapers have run a story that Warner told England players how he used the strapping on his hand to knacker up the surface of the ball a bit during the Ashes.
Here is a picture of Warner’s hand during the Port Elizabeth Test (thanks to Darryl for pointing this out to us).
This image raises three important questions in escalating order of importance:
It’s important to point out that Warner is right-handed, so he shouldn’t have required assistance writing the names. (Several of you will no doubt feel that he probably did require assistance writing the names anyway.)
There has also been a suggestion that Cameron Bancroft only became Ball Management Guy after a dressing room attendant spotted Warner putting sandpaper in his strapping during the second Test at Port Elizabeth. This claim has the general air of being not enormously true based on the vagueness of the source, but we mention it anyway because you never know. We certainly wouldn’t bet big money against it and not just because we already have a lot of outgoings and to do so would therefore be somewhat irresponsible as well as juvenile.
The most compelling case for David Warner as ringleader has been put forward by journalist Geoff Lemon. He thinks Warner’s smarter than he’s generally given credit for (which, in all honesty, isn’t actually all that hard given the public perception of him) but he says he’s also prone to wild mood swings and high aggression. Even never having met him, those qualities just seem instantly and 100 per cent believable.
Lemon doesn’t think Steve Smith can control Warner and instead just tries to accommodate him. He thinks the South Africa experience has got to Warner and that he’s increasingly been driven by what he perceives to be righteous rage. Under a weak captain and an indulgent and protective coach who lacks perspective and self-awareness, you can see how that kind of an attitude might lead Warner towards ever-darker parts of the grey area and incrementally on from there.
An alternative view, which we’ll put forward for balance, is that David Warner is a very convenient and beautifully appropriate fall guy.
We were in a police line-up once. It was when we were at university. We can’t remember exactly how it came about, but we think that someone from the police came onto the campus and said that they needed young men with short dark hair to make up the numbers. So we went down to the station along with a bunch of other short-dark-haired middle-class students and stood next to a lad from the estate with somewhat longer hair and then the person came in and said it was the lad from the estate and we all got a tenner and went and bought ourselves ten pints.
The point is, take almost any conceivable combination of current Test cricketers, line them up alongside David Warner and then ask people to guess which one’s been a dick. Doesn’t even matter what the crime is – who are people going to pick? People are going to pick David Warner because he’s a dick.
The idea that Australia did something wrong and that Warner was 99 per cent responsible is an easy thing to accept because it just seems so fundamentally plausible.
Warner too will be aware of this. He’s spent most of his career feeling like everyone’s got it in for him and while there’s a dash of paranoia and a soupçon of insecurity in that assessment, it’s also pretty much fully accurate and correct.
The man himself, you feel, will have a strong sense of the way the wind is blowing this week and might therefore have concluded that he might as well ‘go rogue’ before he’s officially banished. Why wait?
Here at King Cricket, we’re not at all in favour of unnecessary on-field aggro: fielders over-celebrating dismissals, bowlers getting right up in the batsman’s face and all that.
We are HUGELY in favour of adrenaline-fuelled cricket – particularly when it involves a true fast bowler and a batsman who comes across as maybe being a bit of an arsehole.
It is just such a tremendously watchable feature of cricket. In what is ostensibly a team sport, you have two guys who hate each other basically going head-to-head, the guy with the bat making the guy with the ball hate him more and more and more until finally there’s a moment of catharsis.
And you know what? Sometimes all that bad stuff that we totally don’t approve of actually helps give rise to this kind of thing.
So let’s entirely overlook the cause and instead celebrate the effect because David Warner and Kagiso Rabada had a thing today and it was very much amazing and fun.
Rabada began by hitting Warner on the arm. It was his second ball and already we had the physio on.
Strapping in place, Warner promptly popped Rabada for four next ball.
The ball after that was a leg-bye and he got off strike.
The next Rabada over, Warner was facing again. First ball he nearly chopped on and got a single. Back on strike, this is where things really went up a notch because he hit the final three balls of the over for four.
The first was a legitimate cover drive, the second was a definitely-going-after-this-guy-no-matter-what scythe thing and the third one was off his pads.
And it continued.
The first ball of Rabada’s next over was, as you might imagine, short.
It went for six.
We’re not sure exactly what you want to read into this, but Rabada’s next delivery was a no-ball.
That also went to the ropes.
So that’s Rabada v Warner, five boundaries on the bounce. What would you absolutely 100 per cent most definitely want to see happen at this point?
Just stop and think. Imagine that you know in advance that this is the last ball you’re going to see. Things aren’t going to build up any more that this. This is the finish. What do you want to see?
Cartwheeling stump! The finest sight in sport.
After that, Usman Khawaja walked out and everyone felt a bit deflated and a load of people switched off.
Honestly, this might just have been the most perfect passage of cricket there’s ever been.
Many things happened during Australia’s first Test win over South Africa. Some of them were cricket, some of them were David Warner falling out with people. The thing that interests us the most – AB de Villiers’ second innings run-out – fell somewhere in between.
Let’s break the moment down, because it’s really quite something. We’re struggling to think of a more disrespectful dismissal.
The South Africans were near enough 200 runs behind on first innings and had then found themselves chasing 417 to win.
They quickly fell to 39-3 and so had basically lost. You wouldn’t think there was much left to get het-up about at this point, but then you’re not David Warner.
David Warner is, you suspect, the kind of man who snaps the remote in half in fury when the batteries start to get a bit low.
Nathan Lyon dobbed one down the leg-side and South Africa opener Aiden Markram nurdled the ball towards David Warner.
As Warner scuttled round to get it, AB de Villiers set off down the pitch before doing a big U-turn when he looked up and saw only Markram’s back.
Sadly for de Villiers, he’d gone sufficiently far that the run-out was never in doubt. Warner was grinning even as he threw the ball.
At the bowler’s end, Lyon enveloped the ball with his Mekon hands and duly broke the stumps.
What we didn’t mention was that AB de Villiers was on nought, having only faced one ball. Now here he was lying on his face, run-out in a match his team were about to lose.
Being run-out is always rubbish because to some extent it’s always self-inflicted. It’s worse still when you end up literally lying on your face in the dirt at the moment it happens.
Here’s AB de Villiers literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose.
What happened next was that Nathan Lyon saw AB de Villiers literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose and thought to himself: “This isn’t quite humiliating enough. I think I need to ramp this up a bit. I need to really emphasise the fact that AB de Villiers is literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose.”
So Lyon ran past, looking down at him, and to emphasise that de Villiers was both literally and metaphorically fallen, he dropped the ball near him.
You’ll note that we italicised ‘nearly’ in that last sentence. As you can see, Lyon is looking directly at de Villiers even having passed him and is dropping/flinging the ball as he does so. You could maybe, if you so chose, argue that he dropped the ball at de Villiers.
Lyon could not have executed his run-out and ball-drop without the assistance of David Warner. Warner too was hugely keen to emphasise the fact that his team was winning the Test match.
Presumably feeling that the surviving batsman had escaped lightly, he chose to convey his team’s supremacy to Aiden Markram.
Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine said at stumps that there “wasn’t too much aggression” during Warner’s send-off (which technically wasn’t actually a send-off because Markram wasn’t going anywhere).
Here is Warner’s Hatred Face midway through said send-off. We’re pretty sure we have never been this angry with anyone about anything in our entire life.
Now we want you to understand something at this point because it doesn’t really come across in stills. Warner is aiming this face AT Aiden Markram. Aiden Markram is the subject of the hatred.
All of Warner’s team-mates came and mobbed him for doing the run-out throw and yet he physically struggled with them to ensure he retained a direct line of sight to Markram.
A direct line of sight to Markram was important to Warner because he didn’t want there to be any miscommunciation about just how much he hated him
It doesn’t really need stating explicitly, but obviously as well as making the face, Warner was saying things at Markram.
And yes, ‘at’ is the right word here. David Warner was most definitely not saying things to Aiden Markram; he was saying them at him.
You’ll of course remember when David Warner took a swing at Joe Root after becoming inexplicably incensed by the Yorkshireman’s inappropriate use of a wig.
Halcyon days. There was at least something comical about this particular confrontation; a certain Scrappy Doo quality borne of Warner’s diminutive stature and the sheer ludicrousness of the supposedly inflammatory act. It’s not quite like that this time around.
Fortunately, Warner’s still around to bring a note of levity to proceedings.
The Guardian reports that he’s been pondering how to get “up” and also how to get on top of England’s players. Counterintuitively, he says the mechanism for achieving these ends is to muster hatred.
“How can I dislike this player? How can I get on top of him?” he said. “You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to actually get some hatred about them to actually get up when you’re out there.”
Thank you David for another puzzling window into your psyche.
David Warner says: “I couldn’t be hitting the ball any better but it’s just that the runs aren’t coming for me at the moment.”
In this week’s Cricket Badger, we point out that this runs counter to Temba Bavuma’s matter-of-fact observation that, “you can’t be playing well and not scoring runs.”
Warner is, presumably, crisply striking the ball straight to slip. In the next couple of days, he’ll get the opportunity to prove his ability to hit it elsewhere.
If there’s one kind of form we love above all others, it’s net form. A batsman’s professional life is bound up with events that are out of his control to a far greater extent than he’d ever care to accept. This leads to a necessary level of self-delusion that is far higher than a rational person would maintain and at no time is this delusion more apparent than when net form is cited.
The next development for Warner will either be:
If you’re a batsman, run-scoring is the norm – because if it isn’t, what the hell are you doing with your life?
Some of you may have both noticed and cared that David Warner was apparently having a relatively mediocre year before this Test. His 2016 one-day record is exceptional, but his long format returns had been little more than ‘all right’.
Against Pakistan Warner edged a load and also became what feels like the 85th person to be bowled off a Wahab Riaz no-ball before eventually reaching three figures.
One day of jousiness and Warner’s Test year now reads 748 runs at 41.55 with two hundreds (plus a 97).
So perfectly normal then.
Strikes us that if mediocrity can so easily be negated, it was probably no such thing in the first place.
They should probably start including an asterisk next to Australian batsmen’s annual records, indicating “was obliged to face Herath“. As far as this Warner story goes, that pretty much explains everything.
Not the one from Walkabout, but the weird, pathetic quasi-pull shot he plays when he gets a short ball with two men on the fence. The one that’s twice cost him his wicket in this series and which near enough got him out on the two or three other occasions when he’s played it. We think this might be our favourite shot of this year’s Ashes.
There are other contenders, of course. Michael Clarke alone has delivered a whole new batting textbook each innings. It’s hard to pick out one shot though as he’s rarely repeated one. He hasn’t usually had time.
Peter Nevill’s leave is serving him well. While his middle order colleagues have been drawn to the ball in slow, easy-to-outwit fashion, like zombies towards brains, Nevill has been confident enough to leave the ball. At Edgbaston, he calmly left a James Anderson delivery which hit his stumps. Here at Trent Bridge, he did the same to a Ben Stokes ball but this time got his legs in the way.
Shaun Marsh’s hard-handed push is a strong contender. His is the most zombie-like of all the hard-handed pushes and is further enhanced in our eyes by being played by a man whose batting we’ve long enjoyed. Executed perfectly, Marsh’s shot would end up in the hands of mid-off for no runs. It is an unspectacularly pointless means of courting dismissal and yet it already feels like the inevitable full stop to each of his innings, like Shane Watson’s bat-around-pad lbw review preamble.
But on balance, Warner’s non-pull is the winner, if only because it comes from a batsman who’s otherwise looked pretty decent. It’s an aberration, but he plays it so often, it can’t be. Warner’s spent time honing this gun-in-the-mouth-trigger-pull.
It’s also spectacular. He doesn’t just spoon the catch to a legside fielder. He doesn’t just miss it. He somehow contrives to play the ball vertically while simultaneously looking camp as Christmas. Truly, it is a thing of rare, rare beauty. More of this kind of thing!