Australia’s vice-captain David Warner is as repentant about his wild reaction to “vile and disgusting” comments about his wife from Quinton de Kock as he is unrepentant about the way he behaved on the field in Durban, and insists spending the next two years only a single disciplinary infraction from an ICC suspension will not change the way he plays.
Speaking for the first time since accepting a fine of more than A$13,000 for “conduct bringing the game into disrepute“, Warner said the fact he had not been sanctioned a single time by the ICC since 2015 was a strong indicator that, apart from the Durban lapse, his behaviour has been more than acceptable.
At the same time, he conceded he had not shown enough restraint in his reaction to de Kock’s comment, which Warner revealed had been muttered quietly as he and Tim Paine began to mount the stairs from the players’ race at Kingsmead up towards the two dressing rooms. While saying he had been called “every name under the sun”, Warner said that disparaging comments about family members were out of bounds, and strongly denied claims from the South African camp that he had mocked de Kock’s sister or mother.
“I think you guys are well aware that I cop it left, right and centre, especially off the field from spectators. I am used to that and it doesn’t bother me,” Warner said in Port Elizabeth. “But in the proximity of my personal space and behind me, a comment that was vile and disgusting and about my wife and just in general about a lady was quite poor, I felt, and as I said my emotional response, you saw, was just something that I don’t believe should have been said.
“I will always stick up for my family. And in that case, my team-mates as well. I just would have liked him to say the comment a little bit louder, instead of muttering it under his breath next to me and Tim Paine, and then walking up the stairs and saying ‘I didn’t say anything’ as soon as the rest of his team came out. At the end of the day, we’re all men, and if you’re going to say something, you look someone in the eye and say it.
“I’ve always felt that when it comes to family or racism comments or anything like that, that’s just a no-go zone. I’ve been called everything under the sun out the field and that, quite frankly, doesn’t bother me. Each individual is different, of course, but if we are going to jot down everything that is in that sort of spectrum, whether it is calling me a slowcoach on the field or whatever it is, it is up to the individual, but at the end of the day, the other day was, I felt, was probably out of line. I’ve seen the footage and I regret the way it played out but, for me, it is how I am and I responded emotionally.”
Fresh CCTV footage of Warner and de Kock has provided the missing link between pictures capturing the two teams walking off the field of play at tea on day four and the stairwell footage that showed an irate Warner being kept at a distance from de Kock by several team-mates, including Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith and Tim Paine. The suddenness of Warner’s change in body language suggests something quite different to anything previously said between the pair.
“There was probably three different camera angles and you’ve probably seen the only one at the top of the race,” Warner said. “So, at the end of the day I can only speak for what was shown on the footage. But look, where it was said was literally at the top of the stairs before the first set of stairs to the changerooms. And that was where you saw my emotional response. Yeah, from there you probably would have seen me turn around.
“After it happened that night we didn’t really speak about it because we honestly thought there was not a lot in it until there was a bit of video footage leaked and we had to explain what happened. I’m just relieved to be able to get back on the park and move on.”
As for the way Warner celebrated the run out of AB de Villiers – essentially using it as a stick to beat Aiden Markram – and pursued other members of the South African side in the middle, Smith’s deputy said he would continue to seek a competitive edge wherever he could.
“For me, it was a key moment in that game,” he said. “The way we celebrate or other people celebrate should never be questioned, I don’t think. We were excited, it was a big moment in the game, he’s one of the best players to ever play the game and to get him out with a guy at the other end who hasn’t really played much Test match cricket, we’re going to celebrate those moments.
“I play with aggression on the field and I try not to cross that line and it has been in the past that I have sort of been fiery, but I don’t think whatsoever there on the field that I have ever crossed that line. But that’s how I play my cricket, I live by the sword and die by the sword, so I’ll keep playing with that energy and making sure I am the voice in the team to keep our guys motivated on the field, that’s for sure.
“You guys have seen the past 18-24 months how I conduct myself on the field. What happened the other day was not appropriate and I responded a tad emotionally. But I think I’ve been fantastic the last 18-24 months. I’ve played with aggression, it’s just the cameras haven’t been on me for the last two years.”
Looking ahead to the Port Elizabeth Test match, Warner said he did not expect to face similar barbs to the one delivered by de Kock. However if he did, he insisted he would handle it differently. “I’d find it quite poor if similar comments were said,” he said. “I’d take an appropriate stance and make sure that matters are taken off field away and spoken about in a quiet room, and make sure we can deal with it that way.
“But I can’t see anyone else making comments the way that he made them, which were outright disgusting. As I said, it’s a thing you wouldn’t say about any lady, especially someone’s wife or a player’s wife. I’ve accepted that the way it was played out was regrettable, I’ve stated that, and hopefully in the future if I’m going to respond emotionally, I would try to do it in a more appropriate manner and walk upstairs.”