@TelfordVice 3 minute read
Telford Vice unpicks the Warner v de Kock saga and the questions it raises about the ‘personal’, the ‘line’ and plenty more besides.
How is calling an opponent fat and unfit not personal? How is saying something about an opponent’s wife personal considering she’s a different person?
What is this line the Australians speak of that thou shalt not cross? Who decides where it is? Does it move? Who moves it? How?
Who died and made the Aussies the uber arbiters of cricket ethics? How dare they claim this position for themselves?
And since when is making a comment — personal, not personal, whatever — justification for thuggish behaviour? If someone cuts you off in traffic and you hunt them down and beat them to a pulp, which of you is in trouble?
All of these questions, and many more, are swirling over Port Elizabeth as we speak. Answers are about as rare as windless days in this sea-sand blasted city.
What we know, from video evidence, is that David Warner spent the start of the tea interval on the fourth day of the first Test at Kingsmead on Sunday screaming at Quinton de Kock.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 7, 2018
He had warmed up for his torrid tirade by screeching uncontrollably at a freshly dismissed AB de Villiers hours earlier.
“You f***ing sook,” is the only insult Warner can be heard slinging at De Kock, delivered in a low growl perhaps because of the obvious presence of a television camera. Sook? ’Strine for softie, wuss, cry baby …
The rest of what Warner says has, mercifully, perhaps, not been recorded for posterity beyond the CCTV silent movie of him exploding with rage as his teammates slowly coax him away from De Kock and up the stairs to the dressing room.
Whatever Warner is saying, he’s incensed. And he’s incensed at De Kock — who looks all the while as nonplussed as he generally does.
That doesn’t seem to be a lot to go on in legal terms, but on Tuesday Warner was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and docked three demerit points for his level two offence.
He didn’t bother defending himself, which meant he wasn’t summoned to a hearing and didn’t need to divulge to match referee Jeff Crowe what he had said to De Kock.
De Kock was on the carpet and for the same offence, but on level one. He contested the issue — not the charge but whether he deserved to be punished. He lost that argument as well as 25 per cent of his match fee, and gained a demerit point.
As much as meets the eye in this saga, there is much more that doesn’t.
Nathan Lyon said last week: “We know where the line is. We headbutt it, probably. But we are not going to go over the line.”
Those who have had to put up with the Aussies’ sustained verbal attacks would scoff at that. And the scoffers have fresh evidence to the contrary. At Kingsmead, days after he spoke, Lyon himself copped a fine for dropping the ball on De Villiers, who was prone at the time after a vain attempt to avoid being run out.
So Lyon doesn’t know where that line is. Do his teammates? They made no public attempt to distance themselves from Warner’s behaviour. Instead they defended him, saying he had reacted to something De Kock said to him.
The South Africans say De Kock had had enough of being abused by the Australians — Warner in particular — while he was batting and had finally been provoked into retaliating as the players entered the tunnel.
What was said, beyond the sook reference? If you believe the South Africans, that De Kock was fat and unfit, that the Australians made references to his mother, and that this happened repeatedly while he was batting. If you believe the Australians, that De Kock made a comment about Warner’s wife that those of them who heard it considered unsavoury. None of which may be true.
De Kock’s story has changed. “We are contesting level one because we think ‘Quinny’ didn’t do anything; ‘Quinny’ wasn’t aggressive,” Ottis Gibson said on Wednesday, just hours before De Kock admitted to match referee Jeff Crowe that he had indeed “said something” to Warner.
What that something was clearly wasn’t as “vile and disgusting” — Warner’s description of De Kock’s utterance in a press conference on Wednesday — to Crowe as it was to Warner. Otherwise, you would think, De Kock wouldn’t have got away with a slap on the wrist.
If the International Cricket Council’s disciplinary system wasn’t fundamentally flawed he might have been cleared completely.
How can it be right that Crowe both laid the charge and decided De Kock’s fate? That makes him both prosecutor and judge.
Similarly, how can it be right that Warner is allowed to avoid a fair fight by running away from a hearing?
Perhaps the answers to all these questions is that the personal is political.