- Test cricket
What did Warner say? More importantly, why do we care?
By Malcolm Knox9 March 2018 — 1:17pm
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The distinguished literary female friend, with a once-in-a-blue-moon interest in cricket,
wanted to know. The cricket-obsessed son wanted to know. The wife, concerned on
International Women’s Day about other wives, wanted to know.
The sports editor wanted to know. The retired Test player wanted to know. The outraged letter-writer wanted to know. The mother, of course, wanted to know.
The tribe of frothing nuffies wanted to know – or actually, they didn’t want to know, they wanted their strong opinions to be heard, their statements masquerading as a single question. What do you know? What about that David Warner?
The answer, to all, was: Dunno. I don’t know. How much clearer can your fearless
columnist put it? I. Dun. No. And I dun care.
Everybody’s talking about it, or, to be precise, everybody else is talking about it.
What did Quinton de Kock say to provoke Warner’s reaction? Dunno. What did Warner say?
Dunno. What’s going on between these guys? Dunno. What does it mean for cricket?
Well, I have an opinion on that. Nothing. This has been an explosion in a black hole, a
great conflagration swallowed by instant immateriality. All heat, no light. A global social
media earthquake measuring zero on the Richter scale.
Warner has accepted a fine and, more significantly, a final warning for his behaviour
in Durban. As he should. Whatever the provocation, his reaction was out of proportion. It’s
interesting how provocation, among those who can’t control themselves, seems to be
mistaken for righteousness.
Warner’s excuse, whatever de Kock said about his wife, holds as much merit as Ben Stokes’s excuse, coming soon to a courtroom near you, for belting the bejesus out of some bloke. Short version: every hothead since Cain has thought he was provoked. It’s part of being a hothead. You suffer from provocation-sensitivity syndrome.
So, just when the affair was being swallowed by its own inconsequence – a rinse and
repeat of every other choreography of transgression, every previous ritual of he-said- he-
said, every diatribe of how cricket is not a game for gentlemen but for meatheads and
bogans – the worldwide spike of tedious blah was saved by the International Cricket
Council, galloping in on its white horse to turn drama into comedy.
When in doubt, charge! And here it was: the actual charge to which Warner pleaded guilty (and which de Kock contested but lost) was that both players were guilty of bringing the game of cricket into disrepute.
Congratulations, ICC, for recognising the power of laughter to unite a divided world.
Bringing cricket into disrepute? Laugh? We nearly died.
Did Warner even bring Warner into disrepute? For something to be brought into disrepute, perceptions of its reputation must be brought from a higher to a lower place. In the eyes of his critics, Warner never had a reputation to bring down. His Durban outburst confirmed his low character and entrenched those critics’ views.
And his defenders, on the reverse side of the mirror, deepened their encampments around his fundamental goodness or victimness or whatever it is, his Warnerness. Through the events of the last week, has a single person’s existing perception of Warner been changed? Or just intensified?
As for cricket’s reputation, you could say the same. Those who are ashamed of the
Australian team have been ashamed of it for a long time. Those who bemoan cricket’s fall
from its mythical past believed in that fall since long ago; since the mythical past, in fact.
Those who hate, hate a bit more. And those who believe cricket is a game played by
uncompromising competitors who sometimes lose control of themselves and lose sight of
the so-called "line", well, presumably they hold the same opinions post-Durban, only even more so.
This is what we’ve come to. Rather than challenge your opinions or try to think a
little independently, a public "controversy" is an excuse to find a louder megaphone for you
to reassert what you already believed.
Did Warner even bring Warner into disrepute? For something to be brought into disrepute, perceptions of its reputation must be brought from a higher to a lower place.
As far as cricket’s repute is concerned, there are other suspects for bringing it down.
Certainly not de Kock, whose role seems to have been nugatory, that of a one-line extra. If
anyone brought the game into disrepute, it was those who propagated the CCTV footage
from a private place to titillate the public with the illusion of being ‘on the inside’.
Warner has been caught and condemned, rightly. But who did most damage to the game’s
reputation there? And will they be called to account? There was certainly a line crossed,
from the sporting sphere into the personal, and that line was crossed by those who leaked
We in the media are meant to be in favour of open information, even where it is nefariously obtained, and now, having digested that hot footage and talked about it, we share responsibility with everyone on social media and, indeed, the distinguished literary friend, the wife and son, the mother, the nuffies, and everyone who chatters on about it, because every time we touch the keyboard or open our mouths, we are all amplifying cricket’s shame. Disrepute to the power of thousands.
Every time we talk about Warner’s mouth and not Mitchell Starc’s pace and accuracy, Mitchell Marsh’s staunch batting, Aidan Markram’s fabulous century, Nathan Lyon’s guile, Steve Smith’s clever captaincy, the green shoots of Cameron Bancroft’s revival, the grinding power of the Australian team effort, or the simply sublime cricket experience of A.B. de Villiers stroking the ball down the ground – itself a reason to watch the game, even if nothing else happened – we are all bringing cricket into disrepute.
Repute or disrepute alike, it’s now all measured by the volume knob and the eyeball
counter. The salient point of the Warner affair is that even though everybody started
shouting and repeating over and over what they already believed in the first place, it didn’t
matter that none of it was interesting or intelligent, because it generated traffic.
The more people shout, the more noise they make, the more adamant they are that they are right and you are wrong, the more those numbers go up. More readers, more commenters, more Tweeters, more shouters, more gibberers, more more more. And that’s supposed to be
good, because no matter if all this noise is contributing nothing of interest, the main thing is
that it is noise! And there is more of it! Yay! And now I’m shouting too, even though I STILL
DON’T KNOW ANYTHING AND COULDN’T CARE LESS!!!
Cricket, in this past week, has been more talked-about than at any stage of the
season. In the minds of those who measure cricket’s reach, that actually means its
reputation – as a measurable quantum, rather than as a thing of value - has gone up in the
past week. By stimulating traffic and getting people talking, even if they are shouting,
Warner has done cricket a favour. The numbers are in. Warner and de Kock brought cricket
into greater repute. Fines? By increasing those numbers, they will ultimately receive
rewards. As commodities, their value has just gone up.
What a funny old world.
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Malcolm Knox is a sports columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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