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The Roar



At the crease and off the field, David Warner did things his own way - and plenty of cricket fans couldn't stomach it

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Simon McMinn new author
Roar Rookie
4th January, 2024

Over the Christmas period, our family has gathered around to watch the test cricket. Many other families do the same. Watching the Boxing Day Test has become something of a ritual, more than a mere event.

We support the Australian test team, naturally, and like to see them do well. But unlike the one-eyed support seen in other codes, we do so in a fair-minded sort of way. We applaud a fine cover drive or a well-made half century, no matter which team the player happens to come from.

Within the Australian team, though, there is one player who does not seem to attract the same fair-minded respect as all the others. There is one man who seems to attract widespread condemnation from friends and family.

“Warner’s batting? Hope he gets out for a duck” says one relative. “I want him to go out with a whimper. He doesn’t deserve a glorious retirement” rails another.

David Warner of Australia celebrates after scoring a century during day one of the Men's First Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

David Warner celebrates his century on day one of the first Test against Pakistan. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

In the midst of a relaxed and quiet Boxing Day, bitter disdain is revealed for just one of the players on TV. David Warner is at the crease, and it seems, a significant chunk of Australian cricket fans are willing him to fail. A public spat with Mitchell Johnson has marred the build-up to Warner’s farewell Test. Johnson has apologised for suggesting that fans should bring sandpaper to the game.

So why the disdain for Warner? Could it be that he offends the sensibilities of what we want and expect our national heroes to be? Is it wrong to invoke the “B” word – bogan – in connection to him? He doesn’t speak well. He never even played first class cricket before being selected in the Test side, he merely – shock horror – emerged out of T20. Such is the unspoken narrative.


Australians love our sporting heroes- the Waughs, Ricky Ponting, David Boon and of course Shane Warne, to name but a few. We like to tell ourselves the larrikin antics these men would sometimes display were just part of their charm. Never mind that some of these men were, to put it mildly, complex and flawed characters. Everyone makes mistakes, we tell ourselves, and cricket is just a game after all.

But with Warner, there does not seem to be the same saving grace. The feeling transcends indifference into dislike and even outright hostility. Something more complex is going on here, something that goes beyond character and speaks to a deeper part of the Australian psyche.

BANGALORE, INDIA - OCTOBER 20: David Warner of Australia celebrates their century during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between Australia and Pakistan at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on October 20, 2023 in Bangalore, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

David Warner celebrates an ICC World Cup century against Pakistan. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Many critics of Warner will point to his involvement in the sandpaper scandal as the reason for their particular dislike of this player. There is no doubting he cheated in 2018. The details of the scandal reveal so much that is peculiar and brilliant about the game of cricket. Players are allowed to doctor the ball, using their own spit as polish, but not too much.

There were plenty of precedents of players using items to rough up one side of the ball, from pants zippers to bottle caps. It was the conspiratorial nature of the scheme that was hatched on the 24th of March 2018 that seemed to particularly rankle people.

The collusion, the secret meetings in the bowels of the stadium, the players so far from home and desperate to win the game. A conspiracy so secret that even the coach, Darren Lehmann, seems to have been ignorant of it.

Unlike his fellow conspirator, Steve Smith, he was initially slow to apologise. Smith fronted the media immediately after touching down at Sydney Airport having been sent home from South Africa. He sat before the media, speaking candidly about the scandal and his role in it, and broke down when asked about the effect of his actions on his family.


Warner, meanwhile, bulled through the airport and the media. He, too, invoked family concerns when justifying his actions. In this case, the right not to speak. Smith asked for forgiveness, Warner asked for more time. But covering shame privately does not play as well in the media as fronting up with your grief.

David Warner of Australia celebrates his century during day two of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 27, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

David Warner celebrates a century against South Africa. (Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Warner was rightly condemned for his greater role in hatching the scheme. But it was his actions when he arrived back in Australia that sealed his reputation. His seeming lack of genuine remorse confirmed, for many, their dislike.

Other sporting greats have taken care to cultivate their image whilst under pressure. Shane Warne, who was banned for a year for taking a performance enhancing substance, cultivated an air of plausible deniability around his actions, believable or not.

Cricket has always struggled with the pace of change. For a sport with its roots firmly amongst the upper-classes, innovation has been slow and often unwelcome. Consider the derisive “pyjama cricket” moniker used to describe the One Day game in the 1970’s.

For the sake of change, the sport and the culture around it have suffered a lot. But cricket still has gatekeepers who decide what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

David Warner has had, on paper, a glittering career with the bat. There are many Australians for whom, perhaps, that is enough. But many more will never love him and may even welcome his leaving the national stage forever.