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Opinion

Do runs warrant redemption?

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30th November, 2019
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Not so long ago, the Australian public was figuratively marching on David Warner’s home – pitchforks and flaming torches in hand – ready to seize him, tie him to the nearest tree and pummel him to within an inch of his wretched life.

Warner was cast as the prime villain in the sandpaper scandal and the outcry against him was ugly.

There were images in the paper of him dining alone. There was talk of his teammates turning against him.

When Steve Smith bawled at his press conference, many Australian hearts wept with him. When Warner followed his lead, we accused him of shedding a crocodile’s tears.

I daresay that the majority of the Australian cricket public were in favour of Warner never representing them in national colours ever again.

I admit to being among those who felt that way.

Yet now, with his majestic 335 at the Adelaide Oval, Warner is now being celebrated across the land.

From condemnation to commendation; from pariah to messiah.

I struggled with the same wicked conundrum when Steve Smith returned to the crease with such emphatic dominance during the Ashes series. I questioned whether scoring runs – and many of them – warranted redemption. I lay awake at night pondering the nature of forgiveness.

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What Warner did in Cape Town was disgraceful and, in my view, the widespread public antipathy towards him was justified. But does scoring a big hundred in Brisbane, and a triple century in Adelaide, square-cut the ledger? Will we see headlines screaming that Warner’s redemption is now complete?

It’s a tough question to answer.

Whilst it makes fleeting intellectual sense, I have begrudgingly accepted, within myself, that I have forgiven Steve Smith. I accept that David Warner deserves the same open mind.

But I do not think that redemption is to be found in the number of runs Smith and Warner have scored since their return to the Test arena.

Rather, their redemption lies in the depth of character they have demonstrated.

Both men accepted the penalty given to them. Remarkably, Warner served his time with greater dignity than his former captain. Warner preferred silence over tame interviews on Fox Cricket or ill-advised Vodaphone advertisements.

But where I admire both Smith and Warner is in the resilience they have shown. That they came back at all – after their self-inflicted humiliation – is to their credit. Lesser men may have found a dark room in which to hide.

And that they both excelled – Warner somewhat belatedly after an abominable Ashes series – demonstrates admiral attributes such as determination, perseverance, hard work and an indomitable will to succeed.

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So, to answer my own question: no, I do not believe that runs warrant redemption. But the strength of character required to excel in the face of one’s own foibles certainly does.