Taunts do cricketers and fans a disservice
There are always thrills when David Warner takes to the cricket field, and after the thrills, the field littered with casualties. He attacks opponents with both his bat and his mouth.
From the Sydney Cricket Ground to St George’s Park in South Africa,Warner commands attention.
The higher the stakes the more zest it adds to his life, and, if weare honest, ours.
We are all cheering for some hero or villain in the current Testseries between Australia and South Africa. Sometimes, the roles areinterchangeable and often indistinguishable.
This Test series, however, has seen a growing roll call of ugliness onand off the field, easily amplified in this smartphone age.
Before the stairwell standoff between Warner and South Africanwicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, only the most passionate of fans hadbeen closely following the Test series on the African continent.
This low level of interest quickly changed when a derogatory remarkmade by de Kock about Warner's wife, Candice, triggered a furiousreaction from the Australian opener at the tea break on day four ofthe first Test.
Australian batsman Usman Khawaja was forced to restrain the openerfrom marching at de Kock.
Warner needed to be held back by Khawaja and other teammates includingcaptain Steve Smith, Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon as de Kock walkedalongside them to the South African dressing room.
It’s important to note that the standoff only became public when CCTVfootage of the incident was leaked.
Proteas team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee declared after the matchthat Australia's sledging of de Kock had "definitely" got personal,citing Warner as an offender, while the South African camp suggestedthere had been barbs about de Kock's mother and sister.
Suddenly, everyone had an opinion on the game. Hysteria took hold, andthe issue was explored from every social, sexual, political andcensorious perspective under the sun.
Punishments were duly handed out, and everyone retired to their cornerready for the next Test.
There was only one problem, the animus between the two teams failed todissipate.
South African cricket officials were forced to apologise after twostaff posed next to fans who felt empowered to wear Sonny BillWilliams masks during the second Test. The reason: before she was wasmarried, 10 years ago, Warner’s wife, Candice, was captured on amobile phone with the footballer Williams in a toilet cubicle.
The South African fans felt that this footage was part of theirarmoury for sledging the Australians.
Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons succinctly summed up what shouldbe our reaction.
“They have no care for her [Candice Warner], no care for him, no care fortheir children, no care for the spirit of cricket, nothing.”
He then rounded on the Australian team for their part in the sledging.
“The whole thing has got so out of hand it has become a toxicboomerang, continually hitting us in the back of the head, damagingour good name around the world."
The ugliness continued when South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada wascharged by match officials for bumping into Steve Smith following theskipper's dismissal on day one of the second test.
Make no mistake the thrill of battle between two sporting teams, wheresportsmen and women put everything into the contest, is intoxicating.
Sporting fields are the crucibles of the best and worst attributes ofmodern society. As human beings we are endowed with intelligence,integrity, bravery, compassion, and— up until recently — conscience.
It should be no surprise that in sport we see when these attributesshine or fall short.
In the age of mobile phone amplification, however, every act from anearly 20s dalliance to our shouting match in a stairwell is nowdeemed available as part of the sporting battle.
What we do with this information, however, will stamp us asindividuals, but, more importantly, it will show whether we still haveany respect for each other.