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Champions Trophy: David Warner plays hangdog following attack on Joe Root, but it's just another kicking for poor old Pup

Australian captain cringes as his opener apologises publicly for punching Joe Root
  • @stephenbrenkley

He came to apologise and on that score he let nobody down. David Warner knew he had let everybody down by bashing Joe Root in the face but he was sincerely sorry.

The A-word came from his lips at least eight times. He apologised, he was apologetic and he offered apologies. Warner sat in a basement room at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington to purge his soul.

He was serious and intense but a man clearly at ease with the world compared to the man sitting alongside him. Michael Clarke, the captain of Australia, who still mysteriously has to go about in the world bearing the nickname of Pup, stared earnestly ahead while Warner proffered his contrition.

Clarke, it is fair to assume, was angry when he heard of Warner's latest transgression. But he declined to say so and talked purposefully about the team's culture and the need for standards to be maintained.

The room was packed. A cricketer hitting another cricketer, a member of his team's bitterest and oldest rivals, is a story in anybody's language. Mickey Arthur, Australia's coach, came into the room five minutes before the session began.

Arthur is one of life's genuinely nice guys and he offered a smile and a wave of salutation. Perhaps he just wanted to be sure for himself about the attention the story was getting.

At the back of the room was Colin Gibson, the communications chief of the England and Wales Cricket Board. He might have been at the hotel for other reasons, of course, instead of at The Oval where England were playing but the temptation to hear how the Aussies talked themselves out of it was too hard to resist.

In a way, Warner and Clarke were lucky. The room was full mostly of Pommie reporters who had come to gloat more than to criticise. The Australian press contingent has yet to arrive in the country, newspaper finances being what they are.

Had they been present the pair would have received a real roasting, Warner for the punch, Clarke for permitting the lax dressing room which allowed it. There are no greater cheerleaders for the Australian team when their boys are winning, which made the 1990s and early 2000s more unbearable than they already were.

Equally, there are no more implacable critics when the boys start to mess it up – and they are messing it up in style lately. The press would have a field day and probably are at home. For Warner it may only be a stay of execution. They will have his number when they arrive.

The stern captain and the contrite opening batsmen were dressed in team kit. Warner had made an effort with his appearance. He might have shaved about five minutes before he walked into the room and the hair was kept firmly in place at the front with a thick smattering of gel.

Had he not had the kit on and had he not been issuing apologies here, there and everywhere, he could easily have been mistaken for one of the smart concierges milling around on the floor above. Nothing seemed too much trouble.

Where it all really leaves Australia is too early to tell. They might see this as a line in the sand but, as somebody pointed out from the floor, they had one of those only three months ago. This unfortunate incident might bring them together, and Warner seemed genuine in his intention to reform and help the team.

But there was one thing he would not concede. It was pointed out to him that 14 years ago Ricky Ponting, a young shaver at the time, had been in a brawl in a Sydney bar after drinking and later admitted that he had difficulties with alcohol.

Ponting went on to become a great cricketer, a great captain and is a great man. Warner was sorry but he was not going so far as to say that his problems went beyond that. Clarke answered every question as directly as he could. Life is a serious business for Pup at the best of times.

If Australia regain the Ashes sometime this summer all this will be forgotten. It seems highly improbable at this stage of proceedings, when disarray hardly does justice to what is going on in their camp. But it would be some party and you might want to be there with Dave Warner that night.

Timeline: Six months of turmoil for the tourists

29 December 2012

Mike Hussey makes the surprise announcement that he is to retire from Test cricket following the New Year Test against Sri Lanka after 79 Tests – leaving a hole in Australia's middle order in Ashes year.

5 March 2013

Australia are thrashed by India in Hyderabad, going down by an innings and 135 runs for their 10th-heaviest Test defeat. The last seven wickets go for 56 runs.

11 March

Team tension is exposed after Shane Watson Mitchell Johnson, James Patterson and Usman Khawaja are suspended for third Test against India for failing to provide "homework".

24 March

India complete a 4-0 Test drubbing of Australia inside three days in Delhi as Watson takes over from the injured Michael Clarke as captain. It is Australia's worst series result in 43 years and just their fourth whitewash.

20 April

Weeks after labelling the captaincy "a dream come true", Watson resigns as vice-captain of the Test side, saying he wants to focus on his batting and bowling.

18 May

Batsman David Warner is involved in a Twitter spat with Australian journalists Robert Craddock and Malcolm Conn, for which he is later fined £3,700 by Cricket Australia.

4 June

Ashes preparations take another knock as Australia are bowled out by India for just 65 in a Champions Trophy warm-up match in Cardiff, losing by 243 runs. Clarke misses out again owing to his back complaint.

8 June

With Clarke still out, Australia slump to defeat in their first match against England on this tour, losing by 48 runs in their opening Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston.

12 June

Warner is dropped from the Trophy squad to face New Zealand after he punches England's Joe Root in an "unprovoked" attack in a bar last weekend.

Ewan Day-Collins