The Public Apology presents a new series in which we apologise for various athletes who have brought the game into disrepute through dickhead-ish behaviour. In this first installment, Al McClintock targets Australian cricketer and perennial headline-grabber, David Warner…
There is a lot to like about the David Warner story. Battler come good. The ‘slogger’ proving the critics wrong and dominating test cricket. So why do so few people actually like him?
It would be wrong to say he divides public opinion, as sports journalists love to do, because I am yet to hear anyone apart from his father come out and defend him. Even then he more just stands by him, no doubt desperately wishing his son would pull both his punches and his head in.
For a moment, it seemed he had. He began reeling off domestic tons, opponents went uniassaulted and the future looked bright for Davey from the Block. He had worked his way back into the test team, started scoring runs, and settled down with a lovely lady. He was one of the good guys again. But it didn’t last long.
Enter Jonathan Trott, and a bunch of South Africans, Zimbabweans and New Zealanders masking as Englishmen and… well we all know what happened there. Most could forgive Warner for that though. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that Warner surely could not have anticipated. The problem is he didn’t learn from it. I can’t remember the last time a test match finished without a snide Warner remark about the performance of the opposition. They are always ‘scared’, ‘lazy’, ‘weak’, or in the case of the recent Port Elizabeth test, ‘cheating‘.
Cheating is a pretty heavy accusation at the best of times. Especially when you have absolutely no evidence apart from a particularly good bowling display from the undisputed best fast bowler in the world (I am sorry Mitchell Johnson, but he is. Do what you’re doing for another three years, and then I’ll reconsider). It reeks of sore loser.
The ultimate irony is that the South Africans say it was Warner himself who was responsible for the reverse swing, by hitting JP Duminy for six and sending the ball onto the concrete in the stands. I imagine that claim was made with their tongues gently caressing their inner cheeks, but one can’t help but chuckle.
Why Warner ever became the ‘go to man’ for press conferences is beyond me. Surely there are some better-spoken players in the team? I assume it was a deliberate ploy to begin with and he was sent out by ‘Boof’ with the instructions of getting under the opponents skin, but now, given the ‘internal discipline’ he apparently received, perhaps the masters have realised their attack dog has broken his leash and is relishing the taste of human flesh a little bit too much.
The term ‘Attack Dog’ in fact suits him to a tee. Given his stocky stature and the way he really goes out there to maul attacks, he has all the qualities of a loyal little Staffordshire Terrier (say what you like about him, he is loyal, and does play for the team). But like a young pup he sometimes gets over excited and takes a shit on the floor. Interestingly, if you watch his eyes during some of his stupider comments, he often immediately looks guilty and knows he’s said something he’ll regret.
He doesn’t quite have the guilty look of a scolded puppy, but he knows he’s in trouble. You can almost hear his inner monologue screaming mid-sentence “ABORT! ABORT!”, like Darren Lockyer’s must have been when he told that infamous ‘Raper” joke about the Canterbury Bulldogs*, but on then there is this distant, desperate response: “I can’t! I’ve come too far…”
Perhaps the worst thing for young David is that while all this has been going on he has been in scintillating form, but no one’s talking about his batting. Legends of the game were unanimous before this test in saying he should let his bat do the talking, and has he ever! Yet he won’t be remembered in this series as the leading run scorer (potentially), rather he will be the bloke who accused the other guys of cheating and generally talked shit.
He is not entirely to blame. The new M.O. of the Aussie cricket team seems to be if we talk ourselves up, and the opponents down enough, we may just begin to believe it. Given the results, it certainly seems to be working, and as cricket is such a psychological game, there is credence to such a strategy.
Still, in what is meant to be ‘the gentlemen’s game’, I can’t help but ask myself, where have all the gentlemen gone?
By Al McClintock
* To be fair, it was actually a pretty good gag