Who really wins by revisiting sandpapergate?

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As a regular punter, I am bemused at how the sandpapergate saga rages on. David Warner against Cricket Australia – it’s become a media battle of wrong versus right, good versus evil. Depending on your position, it could be seen as David Warner being made the scapegoat or Cricket Australia trying to uphold the game.

The obvious problem I see is that there was no path to closure on the incident at Newlands.

The judicial system is clear, the punishments are clear and the appeal processes are clear. We have been conditioned to expect this as a sport-loving public. We get to debate about whether the punishment fits the crime, the competency of the judiciary members and, most importantly, whether there was malicious intent from the player involved. In fact this is one of the great things about both of the main footy codes in Australia.

So, what are we meant to think? Does it pass the pub test? I expect to most the situation still smells a little funny.

In 2018 we saw a press conference in which we had a sobbing captain and vice-captain give highly curated admissions of guilt, or at least apologise for “their part”. It had all the hallmarks of disciplining a toddler. Are you really sorry, or are you sorry that you got caught?

David Warner during Day One of the first Ashes Test.

(Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

No open discussion of the facts led to the sentences, and sentences were given to players behind closed doors without public debate or details given on the hearing. In the meantime, the coach also quietly departed.

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As a cricket-loving public can we forgive them? Should we forgive them? Were there other players or staff involved? How far up the chain did the knowledge of the incident go? I’m sure we agree that the leadership of the team needs to be accountable for the greater team’s conduct, but we are left asking: accountable to who and for what?

To this day we still don’t understand, and we are left to speculate on what the full situation could have been. The result is of course perception is reigning, battle lines have been drawn and sides have been taken. Given the never-ending media attention and image issues of both David Warner and Cricket Australia, the debate rages on.

We were given a glimmer of hope when David was granted the right to appeal his exclusion from leadership roles within the team. But Warner withdrew his appeal when he discovered the hearings would be made public. The withdrawal was made with a press release of clever manipulation to point the finger squarely back at Cricket Australia.

The truth remains hidden behind justifications of player welfare, impact on family and not following due process. Indeed it could even be that Warner has made this decision to protect Cricket Australia or other teammates.

Steve Smith and David Warner

(Patrick Hamilton/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

It’s developed to a point where David appears to be intentionally covert about the details of the incident, who was involved and what roles were played. Again this is left up to the public for interpretation and, worst case, imagination.

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To make matters more complicated, his wife, Candice, is speaking publicly. It is clear she is trying to protect her brood, but she has placed the Warner family in a perpetual state of victimhood, which has done nothing to harbour support in the public’s eyes. She diminishes David by doing this at a time when he needs to appear in control.

I wonder: in what other work environment does your partner get to comment on your career and your employer’s decisions? Indeed it’s never a good idea to have a public spat with your employer, and having your missus in the middle of it is worse.

I do not doubt the impact on the family, but this is not the point. Candice and David just do not understand why the public is angry. All people want to see is honesty, transparency, disclosure and facts.

With this decision, David has demonstrated he is willing to put self-interest above the game, and he may be right to do so. Cricket Australia have also shown they don’t need David, and David, with his banked millions, doesn’t need Cricket Australia.

So only David can choose to end it now. He can man up and spill the beans, in which case he will likely be sacked, or he can choose to play on until his form deteriorates and he is dropped.

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Retrospectively, we do not know if the ban was fair; however, indeed it should have been applied to all and any that were involved in the incident. If the conspiracy went so far as Cricket Australia officials, those who are left should also lose their jobs.

So finally, what is the legacy now for David Warner? A good player for Australia who averaged in the mid-40s at home but only 24 in India and 26 in England? Not one of the greats and not part of any great teams and may have been a cheater?

With respect to Warner, he does not have the leadership qualities of his predecessors.

Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, the Chappells, Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry showed maturity, humility and awareness in their leadership – and yes, sometimes arrogance too. However, their communication style was as much about what they didn’t say as it was about what they did say as well as what they said publicly compared to what they said in the dressing room. Most of all, they put the baggy green above all else, including themselves.

The final chapter in this saga is yet to be written, and I still hope the truth will come out. The rest will have to wait for his book release.

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