Former Australia vice-captain David Warner has conceded he may never play for his country again after being banned for 12 months, and from captaincy for life, by Cricket Australia for his part in the ball-tampering scandal during the Newlands Test against South Africa.
In a press conference at the SCG where he stuck rigidly to script, Warner accepted responsibility for playing a role in the episode and apologised to supporters, CA, Cricket South Africa and his family. However, he declined to answer questions about how many other members of the team were aware of the plot, whether he had tampered with the ball on previous occasions, whether his relationship with the rest of the team had deteriorated, or whether he was being made a scapegoat for the affair by CA, who handed him the heaviest penalty of all three players.
Less than two hours after the press conference ended, Warner took to Twitter to clarify why he had not answered some questions. “I know there are unanswered questions and lots of them. I completely understand. In time I will do my best to answer them all. But there is a formal CA process to follow,” he said on Twitter. “I am taking advice to make sure I properly comply with that process and answer all questions in the proper place and at the proper time. I should have mentioned that in my press conference, I’m sorry for not making it clearer. With so much at stake for my family and cricket, I have to follow this process properly. I think that’s fair.”
During the press conference, Warner was not asked whether he intended to challenge the charges and sanctions imposed by CA under the code of behaviour. Asked whether he would retire from the game, Warner said he was considering all his options with his family.
After about six minutes of questions, Warner left the room with plenty more hanging in the air. Warner, the captain Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft have until Tuesday to inform CA of whether they wish to take the matter to a hearing before an independent commissioner, and all are understood to have retained legal counsel while weighing this up.
For Warner, who struggled at times to control his emotions, the most telling line of his prepared statement was that he was “resigned” to the fact he might never again play for Australia, and that he was committed to changing himself as a person.
“It is heart-breaking to know that I will not be taking the field with my team-mates I love and respect and that I have let down,” Warner said. “Right now it is hard to know what comes next, but first and foremost is the wellbeing of my family.
“In the back of my mind I suppose there is a tiny ray of hope that I may one day be given the privilege of playing for my country again, but I am resigned to the fact that that may never happen. But in the coming weeks and months I’m going to look at how this has happened and who I am as a man. To be honest I’m not sure right now how I’ll do this. I will seek out advice and expertise to help me make serious changes.
“I want to apologise to my family, especially my wife and daughters. Your love means more than anything to me. I know I would not be anything without you. I’m very sorry for putting you through this and I promise you that I will never put you in this position again. I take full responsibility for my part in what happened and I am deeply sorry for the consequences of what I was involved in. I failed in my responsibilities as vice-captain of the Australian cricket team.”
The abuse directed at Warner’s wife Candice and daughters in South Africa both on and off the field, starting in the first Test in Durban, was raised as a contributing factor to Warner’s decision, as alleged by CA, to direct Bancroft as to how to tamper with the ball using sandpaper at Newlands, with the knowledge and support of Smith. Warner said it was difficult to go back to where he was mentally at the time of the decision.
“It’s tough for me to talk about where my thought space was on that day, given the circumstances that happened in Durban,” he said, before reverting to the message he repeated numerous times. “But I’m here to take full responsibility for my actions for the part that I played in what happened on day three in Newlands in Cape Town. I’m extremely sorry and I really regret that, and it’s going to be a decision that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”
As for questions about where he stood with team-mates, Warner described the national team as “family”. “We’re mates, we’ve grown up with each other, we’ve played on the field for a long time with each other,” he said. “It’s going to be really tough not to partake in the next 12 months. Not just with the rest of the team but with Steve and Cameron, because we made a decision that was inexcusable and extremely regrettable.”
Warner’s main intention appeared to be to show contrition for the specifics of the episode in Cape Town like Smith and Bancroft had done, but not to go anywhere beyond that, given the flurry of accusations that have swirled around him in particular.
“To the fans and lovers of the game who’ve supported and inspired me on my journey as a cricketer I want to sincerely apologise for betraying your trust in me. I have let you down badly,” he said. “I hope in time I can find a way to pay for all you’ve given me and possibly earn your respect again. To my team-mates and support staff I apologise for my actions and I take full responsibility for my part in what happened on day three in the Newlands Test.
“To Cricket Australia I apologise for my actions and the effect it has had on our game under your care and control. I want you to know that I fully support your review into the culture of the Australian cricket team. To South Africa, the players, administrators and fans, I apologise unreservedly for my part in this and I am sorry. I have brought the game into disrepute on your soil. South Africa is a fine cricketing nation, and deserves better from its guests and deserved better from me.
“To all Australians, whether they’re a cricket fan or not, I apologise for my actions, and I’m sorry for the impact those actions have had on our country’s reputation. I can honestly say I’ve only ever wanted to bring glory to my country through playing cricket. In striving to do so I have made a decision which has had the opposite effect and it’s one that I’ll regret for as long as I live. I do realise that I’m responsible for my own actions and the consequences that brings.”
Speaking a little less than two days after Smith and Bancroft made their public apologies, Warner said they had known the implications of making a “horrible” decision. “We know what the consequences are when you make horrible decisions like this,” he said. “We let our country down, we made a bad decision, I played my part in that and it’s going to take a long time to earn that respect back from the Australian public. It’s really hard to sit here today knowing and seeing my friends, my family that are playing in South Africa at the moment in this fourth Test which I wish I was a part of.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.