Reaction to David Warner’s punch shows how ruthlessness of old has gone walkabout


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The Independent Online

Things are not what they used to be in the once great and sun-drenched land of Oz.

In Perth, what passes as a shock jock is sacked for being “disrespectful and inappropriate” after asking the current prime minister whether her partner is gay.

That the said partner is male and an occasional hairdresser, though becoming better known for parlaying his connections into invitations to high-profile sporting events around the nation, appears to be the sole rationale for the somewhat bizarre interview topic.

Yet in a country that prides itself on the fallacies that everyone gets a fair go – mateship conquers all and the larrikin spirit remains ubiquitous despite the ravages of American television – there has been almost no contrary view to the landslide of support for the radio station’s action.

In an age of growing political correctness, robust debate has given way to self-censorship and endless hectoring by the perennially offended.

Is it a product of this state of mind, the ever-expanding influence of the football codes – four in Australia, each clamouring for a greater market share – or fear of an imminent disaster that has kept the Ashes off the back pages and out of the public eye?

It took a wayward blow – another mistimed David Warner thump, of course – for the Ashes to suddenly regain its status as the event that defines the relationship between the two countries.

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, weighed into the topic, saying Warner’s action was despicable and that he was lucky not to have copped a tougher sanction.

Sutherland is probably right, yet more than a few observers have been left wondering why Australia would weaken its own prospects by preventing Warner from preparing better for the Ashes.

If his drunken stoush was so bad, why not send him home to contemplate how to salvage his foundering career?

If not, give him a whack and then let him get back to business in time to have an impact on the first Test.

Sadly, from an Australian point of view, Warner’s half-pregnant penalty is typical of the malaise that has gripped the national cricket set-up.

When four players failed to complete a performance review on this year’s disastrous tour of India, captain, Michael Clarke, and coach, Mickey Arthur, wielded a big stick and sent the quartet to the naughty corner for a week.

Three of them anyway. Vice-captain, Shane Watson, took the opportunity to return to Australia on a pre-arranged visit before replacing the injured Clarke as captain in the last Test.

Being punished for his errant behaviour then rewarded with the highest honour in Australian sport, Watson’s fate was either proof of the team’s remarkable flexibility or an indication that one hand didn’t really know or care what the other hand was doing.

This was at a time when the veteran Brad Haddin added some stability to the team while the  No 1 wicketkeper, Matthew Wade, was out injured.

Haddin was dropped when Wade recovered in time to play the fourth Test, though senior team officials later expressed their regret that the younger man’s injury had not lasted a few more days.

Excuse me? You genuinely believe one player is better than the other yet you select the lesser one simply because he says he is available?

It smacks of England’s 2006-07 shambles when a misfiring captain was retained because of a fear of his potential reaction should he be required to set a reasonable standard.

One of the defining features of Australia’s current set-up is the lack of the ruthlessness that marked the team at its high point of the past decade or two.

Remember Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist ending Michael Slater’s career in 2001 when the opener’s behaviour was starting to deteriorate and his performances to fray?

There were no drunken fisticuffs in the VIP section of the Walkabout bar on that tour (the Walkabout has a VIP section?) yet Australia had few qualms about lopping a head to replenish the team.

Waugh shredded his calf on that tour but worked around the clock to play again. And not only play. He pummelled a century on one leg in the most intimidating display of his career.

It was a clear riposte to the array of England batsman who couldn’t or wouldn’t overcome their scrapes and scratches in time to return to the front line.

Australia appear short of front-line troops this time around, though the good news is that the back room has been expanded considerably to cater for the extra coaching, analysis, management and research divisions that have helped drive the nation to its current position.

And not all is lost. The fate of the Ashes may rest in the allegedly 34-year-old hands of a Pakistani leg-spinner. He is a typical Aussie, after all, except that he doesn’t go to bars at 2.30am.

Fleeting glimpse of the ‘new Shane Warne’ – then he’s gone again

Fawad Ahmed made his first appearance on the field as an Australian cricketer but it was the briefest of cameos imaginable, writes Ian Callender in Belfast.

His entrance at 12.10pm as Australia A’s No 11 batsman in their four-day game against Ireland coincided with the arrival of the rain at Stormont and as soon he reached the middle, the umpires immediately took the players off the field – never to return.

It was a tantalising glimpse of the player, who fled his native Pakistan in 2010 and is being labelled as the Aussies’ secret weapon in the Ashes series this summer.

The fact that he does not qualify for the full Australia side and cannot play until the fifth and final Test on 21 August, unless he is granted a passport earlier, is a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

The pressure is already on Ahmed to be the successor to Shane Warne but he has still to bowl a ball for his adopted country. That should come today with a good forecast for Belfast and with the Australians expected to declare on their overnight total of 312 for 9.

Steven Smith, 104 not out overnight, was eventually caught behind for 133 after a seventh-wicket partnership of 156 with James Pattinson, who made a career-best 66. He was also caught behind to give Max Sorensen his fifth wicket.

The other four scalps went to Australian-born paceman Trent Johnston, now 39, who captained Ireland at the World Cup in 2007.