Clive Eksteen (L) and Altaaf Kazi pose with spectators wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks. (Twitter)
Cricket Australia (CA) could seek to bring charges under the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of conduct after South African officials were photographed posing with spectators wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks aimed at taunting David Warner during the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
The controversy forced Cricket South Africa (CSA) to issue an official apology to CA and the Australian team, who were angered by the image showing CSA’s commercial manager Clive Eksteen and its head of communications Altaaf Kazi grinning with three supporters, who donned the masks.
Eksteen and Kazi are under investigation for associating themselves with the unsavoury attempt to embarrass Warner and wife Candice, who had attended day one at St George’s Park with the couple’s two children.
Candice Warner was associated with Williams in a well-publicised incident in Sydney in 2007.
SA Cricket Magazine tweets: PHOTOS: While security was instructed to confiscate Sonny Bill Williams masks, these ones did get into St George’s Park. #SAvAUS
The masks were banned initially by venue security at St George’s Park, but CSA overruled that order on Friday. The masks have since been banned again.
CA is furious with the conduct of Eksteen and Kazi, with chairman David Peever and chief executive James Sutherland expressing their disgust to their South African counterparts.
The option is open for CA to call on the ICC to lay a charge, as its code of conduct covers the use of “language or gesture(s) that is seriously obscene, seriously offensive or of a seriously insulting nature” to players during an international match.
Cricket writer and commentator Gideon Haigh has implored CA to take such action.
“This is explicitly covered by the ICC code of conduct and we’re entitled, Cricket Australia, to make a charge ourselves through our chief executive. And I would kind of hope James Sutherland would do that,” Haigh told ABC’s Offsiders program.
David Warner has been the target of South African spectators during the second Test in Port Elizabeth. (AP: Themba Hadebe, File)
CSA tried to “distance itself” from the behaviour of Eksteen and Kazi when it apologised to CA.
“CSA has taken immediate precautionary steps against the CSA officials allegedly involved in this incident and will follow the organisation’s normal internal processes in this regard,” a statement read.
The controversy follows the spiteful first Test in Durban, which saw a heated verbal altercation erupt between Warner and South Africa’s Quinton de Kock.
A remark from de Kock about Warner’s wife ignited a fit of rage from the Australia vice-captain, who later described the comment as “vile and disgusting”.
Warner was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points after being slapped with a charge of “bringing the game into disrepute”.