Finally, Cricket Australia calls time on ‘attack dog’ David Warner’s brand of bullying

Australian cricketer David Warner listens to a question at a press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on March 31, 2018, after returning from South Africa. (AFP)
Updated 31 March 2018
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Finally, Cricket Australia calls time on ‘attack dog’ David Warner’s brand of bullying

LONDON: James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s boss, did not mince words when asked about David Warner.
“He is making some pretty ordinary decisions and getting himself into trouble, and he is bringing the game, his teammates and the team down. That is not going to be tolerated any longer,” Sutherland said.
Those words were not spoken after the ball-tampering episode in Cape Town. They were said after Warner threw a punch at Joe Root in Birmingham almost five years ago. But if the expectation was that Cricket Australia would rein in Warner, we were badly mistaken.
“You try to get into a battle as quick as you can,” said Warner in the build-up to last year’s Ashes. “I try to look in the opposition’s eye and work out how can I dislike this player, how can I get on top of him? You have to find that spark in yourself to really take it to the opposition. You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to get some sort of hatred about them.”
He retracted those words later, but the national board chose the nudge-nudge-wink-wink approach to the toxic sentiments expressed by the vice-captain. And as Australia romped through the Ashes 4-0, there was absolutely no rebuke for the Warner brand of bullying on the field.
Now, Warner is the one most expendable, the one Cricket Australia have hung out to dry as the main conspirator in what has come to be called SandpaperGate. Steve Smith can look forward to Redemption Road. For Warner, there is nothing. The announcement that he would never be considered for captaincy again was especially telling.
The silences and deflected answers in the Warner press conference were even more revealing, especially when he was asked if others were involved in the plot and if it was the first time Australia had done such a thing on the field.
If those advising Warner, legally and otherwise, decide that he has no international future — and the tune Cricket Australia has been humming suggests as much — they could well ask him to come clean in an exclusive media appearance. If he did, what he had to say could cause huge embarrassment to his former teammates and board officials.
Sutherland has banged on about the “spirit of cricket” in recent days. Those words were dropped from Cricket Australia’s strategic plan in 2017. As Gideon Haigh wrote in The Australian: “At times over the years, CA has given the appearance of caring little about the sport’s image, except as a brand or product. One was reminded this last week of the conference five years ago where CA’s commercial chief, Ben Amarfio, argued that controversy in sport was not a problem — it could even be advantageous.”
Now Warner, who in addition to his “ball maintenance” duties was also the team’s attack dog, is the one they are trying to put down.
“I know there are unanswered questions,” tweeted Warner after his tear-filled media conference. “In time, I will do my best to answer them all.”
For half a decade, Warner set the tone for Australia with both his bat and caustic tongue. He is unlikely to go quietly now.


FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax wait to continue

Updated 1 min 32 sec ago
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FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax wait to continue

LONDON: Zinedine Zidane marked his return to the Real Madrid dugout with a victory although Lionel Messi again stole the show in Spain with a magnificent hat-trick as Barcelona continued their march toward the La Liga title. Here we look at what we learned from the weekend’s key action across the continent:

ZIZOU BACK AND MAGIC MESSI

Zinedine Zidane may have made a winning start to his second spell as coach of Real Madrid but Barcelona look to have the La Liga title already sewn up. Barca blew away Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his fourth hat-trick of the season and 51st of his career, prompting even the Betis fans to stand and applaud. The Catalans now have a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who were beaten 2-0 by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, four days after their Champions League heartache at the hands of Juventus.Real’s hopes of catching Barcelona were already all but over but Zidane has at least lifted the gloom. He recalled a handful of old favorites against Celta Vigo on Saturday, including Isco, who scored the opener, before Gareth Bale — who was not always appreciated by Zidane in the coach’s first spell — added another in a 2-0 victory.

SPALLETTI SAFE?

Under-fire Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti hit back at his critics with a dramatic 3-2 Milan derby win which lifted his side to third in Serie A. For Spalletti it was a third derby win in four since taking over in mid-2017, and just days after crashing out of the Europa League, as Inter extended their unbeaten run in the derby to six games, their longest run since 1999. “I read that this was to be my last derby, the ‘Last Supper’,” said the former Roma and Zenit Saint Petersburg coach. “And instead I know that there’s another supper for me,” he added, after being praised by Chinese-owned Inter’s president Steven Zhang. “We’re now already looking to the future, to the next match and next month,” said Zhang. “This derby sends an important message.” Juventus, without Cristiano Ronaldo, fell to their first Serie A defeat of the season in a 2-0 reverse to Genoa but still have a 15-point lead.

BAYERN’S YOUNG GUN

Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies became the youngest Bayern Munich goalscorer since Roque Santa Cruz in 1999, a year before the former was even born, in Sunday’s 6-0 demolition of Mainz. Bayern are level on points with Borussia Dortmund as they bid for an eighth successive Bundesliga title, but the meek nature of their Champions League exit against Liverpool posed questions about the future of a number of aging stars. With a clear-out on the horizon in Bavaria, the 18-year-old Davies, acquired last July in a $13 million move from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, could soon be given the opportunity to stake his claim as a core component in a new Bayern generation.

LIGHT AT END OF ROAD FOR MONACO

With their Ligue 1 status under threat, Monaco’s decision to cut short a failing experiment with Thierry Henry in January and replace him with predecessor Leonardo Jardim has paid off handsomely. Friday’s 1-0 win at second-place Lille, enjoying their best points return at this stage of the campaign since 1948, extended Monaco’s unbeaten run since his return to seven games in Ligue 1. They remain just two places above the relegation play-off spot but are eight points clear of Guingamp and recent form suggests they will surely avoid the drop.

TITLE WAIT FOR AJAX LOOKS SET TO CONTINUE

Champions League quarter-finalists Ajax slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie to drop five points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven. PSV won 1-0 at VVV Venlo over the weekend courtesy of a late strike by Mexico international Hirving Lozano. Ajax, who won the last of their record 33 Dutch championships in 2014, must now win their clash with PSV in Amsterdam on March 31 if they are to remain in the title race.