A war of words has erupted between Aussie cricket legends over the treatment David Warner has faced over his life leadership ban stemming from the infamous ball-tampering scandal.
Test veteran Ian Healy, Simon O’Donnell, Damien Fleming and former skipper Michael Clarke have all spoken out over Warner’s reaction to a saga that has never really gone away since Cameron Bancroft rubbed a bit of sandpaper on a cricket ball in 2018.
Warner released an explosive statement on Instagram on Wednesday night, fearing a ‘public lynching’ if he was subjected to a public ‘trial’ over his appeal to have his leadership ban overturned.
Warner and many other high-profile cricket figures like Clarke and Healy have heavily criticised Cricket Australia’s decision to effectively outsource the appeals process to an independent panel, which wants to revisit the ball-tampering affair and make the evidence public.
Once that happened, it became clear to Warner that and his family with wife Candice would face yet another period of intense scrutiny if he went ahead with trying to get his leadership ban lifted.
Healy, one of Australian cricket’s most popular and respected figures, was full of praise for the way Warner had criticised that decision with his carefully thought-out statement.
‘He’s (Warner) prepared this 800-word document quite well, very well actually. Now, I would like to see a similar style response by the independent panel,’ he told SEN Queensland on Wednesday morning.
‘He has saved cricket here. That panel was going to air cricket’s problems. Why?
‘Don’t air those negotiations, get the job done no matter what it takes behind closed doors. I agree with David Warner that it doesn’t need to be in public unless I get convinced by their response today,’ said Healy.
Cricket Australia have already admitted they would have preferred it if the hearing was kept in house – though the question still remains as to why they would then entrust the process to a Counsel instead of conducting the review themselves.
It is yet another case of Cricket Australia digging themselves further into a hole over their messy handling of an incident.
‘We are disappointed with this outcome as our intention was to give David the opportunity to demonstrate why his lifetime leadership ban should be varied at an independent hearing and we amended our Code of Conduct accordingly,’ a Cricket Australia spokesman said on Wednesday night.
‘We supported David’s wish for these discussions to be heard behind closed doors and respect his decision to withdraw his application.
‘David is a very senior and highly regarded member of the Australian team who has been a great ambassador for the game as a whole since his return from a year-long ban.’
Fleming and Clarke were both flummoxed by Cricket Australia’s handling of the situation, with the former saying he was ‘disappointed’ they didn’t make the decision themselves.
‘It is disappointing. We want to talk about the play and the Test match, (but) four and a half years later Cape Town is still lingering, isn’t it,’ Fleming said on Channel 7’s pre-match coverage of day one of the second Test match against the West Indies at Adelaide Oval.
‘The win-win for me would have been once the door got opened, to open it wide, (and) give him the chance to have a leadership role in Australian cricket.
‘At 36, that is unlikely in the Australian team, but certainly likely in the BBL. If he was captaining the Sydney Thunder, that is great for the tournament,’ said Fleming.
Clarke, who faced a similar amount of public scrutiny to Warner when he was skipper due to his profile off the field, explained why his former teammate might be even more aggrieved than he was previously.
‘You can tell he’s (Warner) disappointed and frustrated. I think the other thing that probably hurts a little bit more is the fact Steve Smith is going to captain this Test match,’ he said on Sky Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
‘I don’t know if it’s fair to make David Warner the complete scapegoat and say everyone else can go back to normal.
‘We’ll forgive you but we won’t forgive Davey. I’m not sure any of them should be involved in a leadership role.
‘It’s a tough one for Davey to swallow, rules in place for him and not for the others.’
When ‘Sandpapergate’ rocked cricket in 2018 after the incident at Newlands in Cape Town during the third Test of a spiteful series, Warner was found to be the ringleader who encouraged Cameron Bancroft to rub sandpaper on the ball.
Warner was banned from international and domestic cricket involving Australia for a year, and banned from ever holding a leadership position again while Bancroft was suspended for nine months.
Smith was found to know of the plan but failed to prevent it, and as a result faced a two-year leadership ban in addition to one year out from the game at the top-level.
He’s since captained multiple times since, despite initial hesitancy, and O’Donnell, one of Australia’s best ODI all-rounders, said all three players were responsible for the continuing mess, not Cricket Australia or the culture of cricket in the country.
‘David Warner copped his right whack for what he did. The bit that I wonder where he’s at with it, is one of his statements was for cricket to air its dirty laundry.’ O’Donnell questioned on SEN Breakfast.
‘It’s not cricket’s dirty laundry, it’s David Warner’s dirty laundry. The situation was caused by David Warner and his co-conspirators (Steve Smith and Cam Bancroft), not cricket.
‘It’s David Warner’s problem. He was playing the game of cricket, the individual isn’t bigger than the game of cricket,’ said O’Donnell, who had previously made the same comment about Justin Langer whingeing about his treatment in recent weeks.
O’Donnell probably won’t like what Warner’s wife Candice had to say on Thursday morning, with the former ironwoman slamming Cricket Australia the hardest of anyone to make a comment.
‘It’s just unnecessary … this (trial) was all about David talking about how he has reformed and the good that he’s done; but this (the trial) is just not what its about,’ she said on her Triple M breakfast show.
‘The fact there was a lack of player welfare, and no welfare about David and our family, speaks volumes.
‘It has affected us for so long and I’m pretty sure that everyone doesn’t want to continue talking about this … David has had enough,’ said a teary Candice Warner.
While Warner’s pursuit to overturn the lifetime leadership ban has ended, no doubt this is a saga that will continue to keep bubbling until the typical post-retirement biographies are released, and press for them is sought.