Opposing Captains Offer Differing Views

The verbal warfare ahead of any contest is always fascinating, primarily because it reveals or sometimes betrays the confidence level of the team or the captain of the said team. Therefore, it is interesting as one contest got underway over the weekend, how different captains took to the idea of using the ball tampering against Australia and David Warner.

South Africa were at the receiving end of the ball tampering fiasco perpetrated by the Australian ‘leadership group’ that involved the then captain Steven Smith, vice-captain David Warner and novice Cameron Bancroft in whose pockets the fateful sandpaper landed. Faf du Plessis, no stranger to allegations and punitive measures for ball tampering, had a different view from Joe Root as captains for South Africa and England respectively on how they would handle the Australia situation.

Last week, David Warner reportedly walked off the field during a club match after he had called ‘a disgrace’ by Jason Hughes, the brother of the late Phil Hughes, former team mate of Warner’s in the Australian dressing room and in the New South Wales team. Warner and his wife, Candice, came on record to state of how hurt Warner was by the comments, labelled sledging, to walk away from the field briefly, an act no cricketer would be accorded in international cricket. Still serving time on the ban imposed by Cricket Australia, it is believed Warner may have a harder time returning to international cricket than Smith in light of his past transgressions.

South Africa, in Australia for a limited overs series, had a different take to Joe Root who threw light not only on Australian cricket’s situation but also, his own mindset. Ahead of the start of the limited overs series, Faf was adamant South Africa would not use the ball tampering incident as a subject for on-field sledging or even banter in the course of the series. While it is widely known amongst cricketers that Australia can often be the harshest environments against a vocal and rather partisan Australian fan contingent at various grounds, often the reverse is true where sometimes nothing is off the table as far as the Australian cricketers and fans are concerned when attempting to disconcert their visitors.

While South Africa promised to play nice, Joe Root was perhaps more pragmatic and forthright when he stated David Warner would not find it easy if he would find himself part of the Australian make up for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 or for the Ashes in England. Routed in Australia, Root is undoubtedly smarting from England’s subjugation from the last Ashes while also, keeping in mind that it was Warner who punched him in a bar in 2013 that sent Warner home as part of the punishment for conduct unbecoming of a sportsman.

Root, unlike Faf, perhaps buoyed by the fact that England would be hosts and not visitors, is not promising to play nice. If anything, Root has been honest in saying that Warner will have to cop it, whether it comes from players or public, something foreign cricketers playing in tough Australian conditions have to develop thick skin for, whether they merit the sledging that goes by the name of mental disintegration or not. Recently Australia dismissed Moeen Ali’s claim that while England were on tour, he was called unbecoming names, a fact that Cricket Australia dismissed as saying as it was uncorroborated.

For years, while Australia dominated the world stage, they were, also, known as boorish, boisterous bullies who cared little for what they used as part for what passed for friendly banter on the field. The exchange of players has been increasingly volatile, particularly between teams that have had to face Australia in recent years. It would appear not everyone is as easy going as Faf to suggest Australia should have it any better when it is their turn. Will that be a factor to consider when Warner becomes available for selection? That is something Cricket Australia will have to weigh in in time to come.

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