David Warner was dropped from the Australia side against New Zealand in the ICC Champions Trophy this week after an apparently unprovoked attack on England batsman Joe Root at a bar in Birmingham.
The altercation allegedly occurred in relation to a fake beard sported by Root; it is rumoured that Warner took offence because he believed Root was mocking South Africa’s Muslim star Hashim Amla’s notable facial hair. England have strongly denied such claims, and in a formal statement the ECB (English Cricket Board) insisted the attack was entirely unprovoked.
Although Australia’s match against New Zealand at Edgbaston was abandoned due to the rain, Warner suffered the very public humiliation not only of being dropped, but then being forced to carry drinks onto the pitch for his team-mates.
The Aussies had been well placed in the match itself, but were forced to settle for a point with the poor weather. After defeat against England in their opening match, things appear to be going from bad to worse in their preparations for this summer’s Ashes. Perhaps even more alarming is that Warner is not the first, and will almost certainly not the last to fall foul of Cricket Australia, with discipline seemingly a recurring issue in the Australia dressing room for the last decade or more.
This is not Warner’s first brush with retribution. Just last month, he was fined the maximum penalty of £3,700 for a foul-mouthed Twitter rant against Australian journalists after the integrity of the Indian Premier League, in which he is involved, was questioned.
Warner’s case tragically echoes the turbulent career of former Aussie all-rounder Andrew Symonds, who was eventually overlooked for selection after a series of misdemeanours.
Like Warner, some of these were alcohol-related, while Symonds’ commitment to representing Australia was also questioned. More optimistically, Ricky Ponting was involved in a number of late-night transgressions in his early playing days, but was able to overcome them to have a glittering career as captain of the national side.
Earlier this week Australia denied that they were planning to bring back Ponting for this summer’s series against England, but the fact that this was even suggested in the first place sums up Australia’s vulnerability.
Their world dominance appears well and truly on the wane, and head coach Mickey Arthur has struggled to find worthy replacements for the greats that have graced the Australia shirt in the last decade.
If Warner could show the same aggression with the bat as he did towards Joe Root, Australia might start to benefit slightly more from his services.
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