David Warner continues to bark at de Villiers as he is swamped by teammates. Picture: AP
David Warner continues to bark at de Villiers as he is swamped by teammates. Picture: AP

Gould: Let’s not abstain players too much from blame

DAVID Warner cried, publicly, and expressed his sincere remorse when he was banned from playing for Australia for a year, and told he could never be captain, ever.

Steve Smith cried too, more so, as did Cameron Bancroft, when the full weight of their public shame for cheating and lying, and the consequences of their actions, came crashing down on them.

Six months have passed, and Monday's Longstaff report on the state of Australian cricket following the ball-tampering scandal confirmed, more than revealed, they existed in an awful, toxic culture where bad behaviour was overlooked and anyone who spoke out was slapped down quickly, and hard.

The Longstaff review tried to paint the Cape Town ball-tampering incident as anything but an aberration or cultural "outlier" but a product of the prevailing mood in Australian cricket.

The Australian Cricketers' Association says that should be enough for the bans imposed on the trio to be lifted. As if to say it wasn't just their fault.

But it's hard to go past vision which has been on repeat this week, and it's not of Bancroft sneakily moving a yellow piece of sandpaper from his pocket to his underpants in Cape Town.

It's from the Durban Test, the first match of the series in South Africa, and the second innings run-out of South African great AB de Villiers as Australia pushed for victory.

First Nathan Lyon, after smashing the stumps for the wicket, dropped the ball not near De Villiers, but on him, as he charged off to celebrate.

Lyon charged towards Warner, who created the first of many cringe-worthy moments in a series that will live in infamy.

His teammates tried to embrace Warner, who had thrown the ball to Lyon.

Nathan Lyon drops the ball on South African AB de Villiers after running him out during the Durban Test in March. Picture: AP
Nathan Lyon drops the ball on South African AB de Villiers after running him out during the Durban Test in March. Picture: AP

But he had gone full "Bull". Not only was he charging around, he was screaming, at the top of his voice, over and over and over again.

"You can't do that," he was shouting to De Villiers.

"You can't do that," he screamed again and again.

There's heat of the moment celebration, then there's outright cricketing ugliness.

Warner displayed that then, and again when he called South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock a "spastic" as he walked off the field, and a "bush pig" during a relentless attack on the relatively mild-mannered gloveman in the same game.

These things are worth recalling this week when forming an opinion on who really is to blame for the state of the game at the moment.

They followed a summer where players talked incessantly about the "line" and a pay war in which they were accused of a blatant cash grab and went within touching distance of strike action.

It's not unfair to suggest the players were not so much a product of the toxic culture that existed in cricket, but significant contributors to it.

Even in isolation, calls for lifting of the player bans from Cape Town bear scrutiny given the trio were not simply put out of cricket for ball-tampering, but for bringing the game into disrepute, for lying to investigators, for lying to the International Cricket Council, for lying to the public.

It was that very public who, in a grade cricket match in Sydney, brought the real truth of the issue home for Warner.

There was potentially a modicum of empathy more than sympathy for the batsman, given he has managed to find himself plenty of places to play, and a bit of cash to boot, despite missing out on millions and match-time as an international star.

But that sympathy doesn't extend to the hundreds and thousands who play the game they love around the country every week, who would give everything to wear a baggy green.

Those who cannot forgive Warner and his Cape Town cohorts for taking that absolute privilege for granted.

"You're a disgrace, you shouldn't be playing cricket," was the comment, hardly a sledge, allegedly sent Warner's way.

That he stopped, and removed himself from the game, maybe gives an indication that the reality of his situation, before then, had failed to really hit home.

This week has been a dark one for cricket. The past six months have too.

And while the push to blame anyone and everyone is strong, maybe those who actually did the wrong thing might finally realise that it was indeed their fault too.


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