Warner dodged questions on possible involvement of other teammates and if the team has indulged in ball-tampering before. © AFP
It was highly anticipated but David Warner played it straight. Unlike his aggressive batting, the innate straight shooter didn’t drop the bombs some expected during the suspended former vice-captain’s press conference in Sydney on Saturday (March 31).
Warner was contrite and emotional as he broke down several times, especially when he made mention of his family. His wife Candice, who was the target of barbaric abuse from South African fans during the series, was sobbing uncontrollably in the room. Distressing scenes played out on Saturday and the pain was evident on Warner’s wretched face, much like what had been seen from the other two players involved, Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft two days earlier.
He unreservedly apologised to his teammates, the nation, his family and the entirety of South Africa – which he deserves credit for addressing. However, things turned when Warner finished his prepared statement and took answers from the packed gallery of journalists, who were demanding answers from the concocter of the misguided plot to tamper the ball in the third Test.
The press conference turned farcical when Warner dead batted the questions and repeatedly stuck to the line that he was taking “responsibility” for his part in the scandal. But it left open a can of worms, which continues to leave question marks over the Australian team.
Warner refused to be drawn into if anyone else in the team knew of the plot outside of the suspended trio, and sidestepped whether it was the first time he had been involved in ball tampering. Once again, he resorted to his go-to line which only infuriated the journalists and those watching.
“I am here to accept my role and responsibility for what happened in Cape Town,” he repeatedly retorted.
Shortly after the press conference, well aware his apology had been widely panned, Warner explained himself on social media and said he had to adhere to Cricket Australia (CA) “formal process”. Reading between the lines, the 31-year-old is seriously considering taking the matter to a CA code of behaviour hearing, which would kick-start a potential appeal.
Since the scandal broke, Warner has become the focal point with most of the blame attributed to him. Reportedly, Warner went “rogue” in the aftermath and left a Whatsapp group with his teammates. It has also been reported that Warner feels that he has been a scapegoat and his international career could be all but over.
In a rare confession, Warner admitted he may never play for Australia again. “In the back of my mind there is a tiny ray of hope I may one day play for my country again, although I know that may not ever happen,” he trembled.
He also revealed he would contemplate retirement. “That’s something that I will continue to sit down with my family and weigh up all my considerations before I make any decisions,” he said.
Warner cut short his presser and left journalists demanding explanations, in what was a shambolic ending to a public apology he hoped would help turn sentiment. It appears Warner is on a hiding to nothing. He had already become the public’s villain of the scandal and was identified as the instigator in CA’s internal investigation.
Like Smith, Warner received a 12-month ban but he won’t be ever able to hold a leadership position if he somehow makes it back to the national team. Right now, it is hard to imagine Warner returning unlike Smith and Bancroft. Fairly or unfairly, the public have turned on him long ago and it is almost impossible to win back the faith. He has been treated with far less sympathy than was granted to Smith and Bancroft.
Warner said he supported the forthcoming independent “cultural review” into Australian cricket. Perhaps he hopes the review will clear the air and help his damaged reputation, which looks unsalvageable.
Undoubtedly, Warner remains the wildcard in this scandal. He probably would have been wise to not take questions from the media if he never intended to answer them but, quite clearly, Warner is holding something back.
Whether he is protecting teammates, himself or waiting for an opportune time for the revelations, Warner’s press conference once again raises a host of unanswered questions. One thing we do know is that this scandal isn’t going away any time soon and Australian cricket’s living nightmare will continue for a long time to come.