Australia won't tone down aggression

“We’ve got a passionate brand, where if you look back at the history of Australian cricket we play an aggressive style”. © Getty Images

Australia’s vice-captain David Warner is adamant the new No. 1 Test team will not divert from the hard-edged playing style intrinsic to the game down under, though he concedes that with better understanding of the DRS the ugly scenes glimpsed in Christchurch may not have happened at all.

The captain Steven Smith and the fast bowler Josh Hazlewood were both fined for an incident where they aggressively questioned a third umpire decision in favour of Kane Williamson on the penultimate day of the series. While Warner did not wish to see Australia’s players retreat into their shells, he admitted the anger could be tracked back to the fact they did not realise how the DRS worked in that moment.

Warner also added his opinion that the stump microphones, not meant to be turned on when the ball is dead, had exacerbated the situation. He said an explanation had been sought from the local broadcasters, with “human error” described as the reason for Hazlewood’s words being picked up.

“In Steve’s case where they used the [HotSpot] but didn’t use the Snicko that’s where he was arguing the point why they didn’t use it,” Warner said on his return home to Sydney. “But with conclusive evidence for the third umpire saying he hit it, he didn’t need to use it.

“When you’re on the field that’s not communicated to you, so that’s why he might have stepped across the line a little bit, and he didn’t know that until he came off the field. If he had his time again and he knew that he wouldn’t have debated that with the umpire.

“There has been a bit of talk about the team and the aggressive brand of cricket that we play. Steve spoke about not trying to cross that line. Stump mics were turned up and they said it was so-called ‘human error’ which was convenient at the time.”

Criticism of Australia’s aggression has seemed to arrive as if on cue with every major achievement by the team in recent times. There was the “broken f***ing arm” incident at the Gabba during the 2013-14 Ashes series, various hot-tempered scenes in South Africa the following year, and some much decried behaviour during and after the 2015 World Cup final.

However the pattern of success means that there is little desire within the Australian side to retreat entirely from a style of play that attempts to make life uncomfortable for opponents with words and body language as well as bat and ball. Warner noted how the likes of Mitchell Johnson had felt increasingly inhibited by match officials about expressing themselves on the field.

“We’re about playing the game in the right spirit, but we’ve got a passionate brand where if you look back at the history of Australian cricket we play an aggressive style,” Warner said. “A couple of the fast bowlers who’ve recently retired have stated that you are taking the aggression out for the bowlers a bit.

“Back in the day you used to see these battles with the fast bowlers, the batter would play and miss and the bowler would say something. These days it’s taken the spark out of it a little bit – I love getting into a contest with the bowler, if he gets you out he gets the last laugh, but if you get on top of him then you can. But in the end it’s what the ICC has put in place and we need to respect that.”

Ironically given New Zealand’s adoption of a higher road under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum, crowds across the Tasman subjected many of Australia’s players to repeated personal abuse. Warner said several times spectators were asked to leave for expressing sentiments he described as “vulgar”.

“Doesn’t matter whether you’re home or away, you’re going to cop some form of abuse, but we don’t expect to wake up and be hounded for six or seven hours,” he said. “Some of the stuff was pretty derogatory and vulgar … the upsetting thing was the fact that if my two daughters were in the crowd I wouldn’t want them listening to that kind of stuff.

“It’s irrelevant what they said, but just disappointing that was happening every game. A couple of bowlers were down on the boundary, you get your odd banter here and there but when they’re talking about people’s families and stuff it takes it a bit too far. Some of the boys raised the issue, not to express it to anyone, more just to say ‘can you get rid of this bloke’ because it’s just not necessary.”

Warner himself played only a peripheral role in the series, making few runs with the bat and keeping himself out of trouble in the field. Asked why he has changed his behaviour, the response may be one for the ICC to keep in mind. “For me it was a 12-month probation,” he said. “That made me keep my mouth shut a little bit.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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