Australia’s cricket players are adamant they don’t “cross the line” when it comes to on-field chatter, but it has left South Africa’s coach bemused as to what that line actually is.
The tourists’ vice-captain, David Warner, has escaped suspension for the second Test in Port Elizabeth after accepting three demerit points and a fine following the Durban stairway scuffle with Proteas keeper Quinton de Kock.
As the players went in to the Kingsmead dressing rooms following a tense final session on day four, Warner and de Kock — who copped a level one charge — were involved in a fiery exchange during the tea break, with accusations de Kock made derogatory comments about Warner’s wife.
Warner said de Kock made “vile and disgusting” remarks about his wife. The coming together happened shortly after Warner had called the South African wicket-keeper a “f***ing sook” on the boundary rope.
The incident was among a number of flashpoints in the match, which included Warner’s spray at South African century-maker Aiden Markram following AB de Villiers’ run-out, as well as Nathan Lyon dropping the ball next to de Villiers while the Proteas batsman was sprawled on the ground.
David Warner (L) was at the centre of the flashpoint with Quinton de Kock outside the Kingsmead dressing rooms. (Reuters: Rogan Ward)
Australian players like Tim Paine have insisted their “hard” cricket is the way they’ve always played, and that they never, “cross the line and bring people’s wives and family into the cricket game”.
But that line seems to be getting fuzzier, and it wasn’t that long ago when the same calls for definition emerged. Asked whether Australia had crossed the line with its sledging of Jonny Bairstow during England’s recent Ashes tour, captain Joe Root told the media: “I think their line and our line are slightly different things.”
And Proteas coach Ottis Gibson is now making a similar observation.
“They’re saying they didn’t cross the line,” Gibson said.
“But where is the line? Who sets the line? Where does the line come from?
“Who does the line belong to? Can you say whatever you want and then when something is said [by an opponent] it’s offensive.
“You didn’t tell us where the line was. Let’s be clear where the line was. Let’s be clear where the line is.
“We don’t have a line because we try to just play cricket.”
The animated Gibson implored umpires to take a stronger grip on proceedings and clamp down on the unsavoury on-field chatter.
Nathan Lyon dropped the ball next to AB de Villiers after the South African batsman was run out in Durban. (AP: Themba Hadebe)
“The umpires need to stand up and take control of the game,” Gibson said.
“If things are being said and if it’s within ear shot … surely the umpires can hear.
“If they hear things on the field they should clamp down on it. It becomes unfortunate when everybody else on the field hears stuff and the match officials say they don’t hear anything.
“Unhappy might not be the right word, we just feel that the umpires are there to do a job and they must do their job.
“When they hear things, they must take charge and don’t leave it to ‘oh, we didn’t cross the line’.”
O’Keefe gives red card to terrible manners
Former Grandstand commentator Kerry O’Keeffe has not been impressed with Warner’s on-field manners, highlighting the Markram send-off as particularly poor.
“The most irksome thing in cricket is the send-off and David Warner has history with this,” O’Keeffe told Fox Sports.
“When you get a batsman out, he’s out. It doesn’t make him more out if you swear at him and shout at the guy that may have caused the run-out as he did with Aiden Markram.
“I think the day is close that a red card will be justified. People will be sent off because cricket has to regain its manners, it’s now an ill-mannered game and unfortunately we are at the forefront of that. Our manners on the field are terrible.
“Rather than just accept it was a great bit of fielding, David Warner just attacked Markram thinking he’d get under his skin.
“We’ve got to rediscover our manners.”
Quinton de Kock (L) walks off the pitch after South Africa’s loss in the first Test. (AP: Themba Hadebe)
Gibson, a former fast bowler for the West Indies, says he’s yet to have a chat with Australia coach Darren Lehmann about the flashpoints or the second Test.
But he added he had no problem with aggression in a cricket game.
“If a fast bowler is bowling bouncers, to me that’s aggression,” he said.
“When everybody else is chirping and sledging while a batter is trying to bat, I’m not sure that’s aggression.”