The Aussies are at it again. The Baggy Greens find themselves in the middle of another ugly incident that has overshadowed their performance on the field. And, unsurprisingly, it is David Warner who is in the thick of things.
The first Test between South Africa and Australia in Durban was always going to result in some sort of a confrontation. When two teams possessing six of the quickest bowlers in the world between them are locked in battle, sparks will fly. And they did on the fourth day of the first Test as CCTV footage emerged of Warner being pulled away from Quinton de Kock during the tea interval in the stairwell leading up to the dressing rooms in Kingsmead. Both sides are adamant their opponent got personal and crossed the line.
ICC match referee Jeff Crowe has asked both sides to cool down and avoid similar incidents in the future. Well, newsflash – that’s not going to happen.
Australia are currently on top of their game in Test cricket. They have a world-class batting unit, a premier off-spinner in Nathan Lyon and one of the most fearsome pace attacks in contemporary cricket. If you think the Aussies played ‘ugly’ before, just wait until they start winning in every format home and away.
It has worked for them in the past and there is no reason for the Aussies to abandon it now. When the Australian side of the early 2000s was sweeping aside every team that stood in front of them, they did so ruthlessly and without much regard to how it looked. The Michael Slater-Rahul Dravid confrontation of the 2001 Mumbai Test, Glenn McGrath-Ramnaresh Sarwan spat during the 2003 Antigua Test, the 2006 Champions Trophy Chris Gayle-Michael Clarke face-off… the list goes on and on.
Gilly- Warner crossed many personal boundaries with the South Africans, so we can’t be surprised when there is eventually a reaction. If players are happy to give it,they have to be prepared to take it,too. On both sides!— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) March 5, 2018
But agreed not a good look. #SAvsAUS https://t.co/obTo0GO2H8
The concept of ‘mental disintegration’ was made famous by the all-conquering Steve Waugh and continued during Ricky Ponting’s era on either side of the turn of the century.
However, it was during Allan Border’s time as captain when the concept first surfaced. During the Oval Test of the 1989 Ashes series while contemplating an early declaration on the final morning, Border was dissuaded by Carl Rackemann in favour of a ‘full mental and physical disintegration’ of England.
Australian cricket thrives on confrontation. That has been the case for three decades now. The nastier they are, they better they play.
McGrath and Matthew Hayden were brilliant on the field and overpowering with their words and demeanour. That tradition lived on with Mitchell Johnson during the 2013-14 Ashes and by Michael Clarke’s “get ready for a broken f***ing arm” threat to England’s James Anderson. It’s not about just intimidation, it’s about putting fear in the opposition’s mind, especially if you have the ammunition to back it.
The current Australian side, and Warner in particular, take intimidation very seriously, verbal or otherwise. In 2012, a ‘secret dossier’ conveniently leaked ahead of their Test series against South Africa revealed the Aussies’ plan to target Hashim Amla with “verbal aggression and engage him in a psychological war”.
Warner was famously banned for attempting to punch Joe Root in a pub in 2013. The left-hander taunted Rohit Sharma to “speak in English” during an ODI tri-series match in 2015. The India-Australia Test series last year was one of the most ill-tempered encounters in recent times with even Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland poking fun at Virat Kohli, wondering if the India captain even knows how to spell sorry.
In Durban, off-spinner Nathan Lyon was fined for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game after he dropped the ball next to AB de Villiers after the South African was run out and lay on the ground.
It all adds to this image of a ruthless outfit that doesn’t care about what opponents think. Results are all that matters and if some anger needs to be injected to get that extra 10 per cent out of players, so be it.
Remind you of any other prominent player?
Kohli follows the exact same formula. And he doesn’t even have other members of the team on board. Kohli thrives whenever he gets into a confrontation. An angry Kohli is a dangerous Kohli and that almost always ends in him scoring runs and India winning.
Similarly, Australia know they operate at a higher level if they add a bit of nasty to their undisputed talent.
Shane Warne famously chided Mitchell Starc for being soft in 2014, at a time when the left arm quick was struggling to make his mark. In the Durban Test, Starc spent an entire over giving South African newbie Theunis de Bruyn a piece of his mind. And expect him to do so as long as his plays at the highest level.
The Aussies are the reigning 50-over champions and arguably the best all-condition Test team in the world. They have won more Tests than any other team in the last five years – 30. So no matter what the ICC or opposition fans’ say, Australia are likely to continue on the path of ‘shoot first ask later’. It worked for them in the past. It is working for them now. Everyone else needs to learn to live with it.
Video footage of the clash on Sunday, broadcast in Australia, showed Warner pointing and directing a verbal barrage at De Kock before he was restrained and pulled away by his teammates.
The incident reportedly took place as the players were returning to their dressing rooms at tea on day four of the first Test.
“CA (Cricket Australia) is aware of reports of an incident between players in Durban,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said in a statement.
“CA is working to establish the facts of what has occurred and will not be commenting further until that has been done.”
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 5, 2018
The Australians had earlier been criticised for their ebullient celebration of the dramatic run-out of Proteas’ star batsman AB de Villiers.
De Villiers was run out for nought after being involved in a mix-up with opening batsman Aiden Markram, with Warner playing a key fielding role in securing the crucial wicket.
The vice-captain then led ecstatic celebrations with his teammates as Nathan Lyon, who had knocked off the bails, dropped the ball towards a sprawled de Villiers as he ran over to join them.
The Australians’ behaviour was slammed by former South African captain Graeme Smith, who told Cricket Australia’s Cricket.com.au website in Durban that Lyon as an experienced Cricketer would “probably say (his action) was unnecessary himself”.
“We’ve got used to Davey (Warner) over the years. I think the less interest you take in him the better,” Smith added.
“He can be a bit of a fool at times. It’s best just to let him be.”
Australia finished the fourth day one wicket short of victory with South Africa on 293 for nine, needing 417 to win, when bad light ended play at Kingsmead.
The art of swing bowling is one of the more nuanced in the game of cricket. Rather than relying on brute pace the bowler needs to out-think the batsman – swinging the new ball and reversing the old. Over the years there have been many great exponents of the art. Here we name our top five:
1 Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
There isn’t much dispute about No1. The King of Swing is rated the best left-arm bowler of all time. Akram’s stock ball was a vicious in-swinger to a right hander. In total he took 414 wickets in a 104 Tests over a 17-year Test career.
2. James Anderson (England)
The 35-year-old’s command of out-swing bowling, especially on home grounds, has seen England achieve three victorious Ashes campaigns. The first England bowler to take 500 Test wickets, his current mark is 523 wickets in 134 Tests. England fans will hope he can play on for a while yet.
3. Waqar Younis (Pakistan)
The man who put reverse into swing and the second Pakistan bowler in the top three. His stock ball was a toe crushing in-swinging yorker bowled at over 150 kph – and this was after he cut down on his pace following back problems. 373 wickets in 87 Tests.
4. Terry Alderman (Australia)
Many may be surprised to see the West Australian at No4 but there are few greater exponents of out-swingers and off-cutters than Alderman. The “Swing Genius” was at his best in English condition,s taking over 40 wickets in both the 1981 and 1989 Ashes. Played only 40 Tests due to injury and suspension but took 170 wickets.
5. Zaheer Khan (India)
Khan had all the traits that made Akram and Younis so great. He swung the new ball and reversed the old, doing well on flat subcontinent pitches and relishing the helpful decks when they came his way. He also controlled all three balls well – SG, Duke and Kookaburra – resulting in 311 career wickets in 92 Tests.