Warner Is Lucky to Escape Ashes Ban, Cricket Australia CEO Says

Australian cricket’s top executive said batsman David Warner is “very lucky” to be available to start the Ashes series, though his suspension for punching an opponent in a bar will make it hard for him to be selected.

Cricket Australia Chief Executive Officer James Sutherland said Warner’s actions in hitting England batsman Joe Root last weekend were “despicable” and that he’s fortunate his ban up until the July 10 Ashes opener was not more severe.

“It could have been a lot worse, as it stands he is lucky to be available for selection,” Sutherland said today at a televised news conference in Brisbane. “Cricket people know it’s going to be very, very hard for David Warner to get selected for the first Test match. He can’t play cricket until the first Test match starts.”

Opening batsman Warner, 26, was last night suspended for the remainder of Australia’s ICC Champions Trophy campaign as well as the team’s two Ashes warm-up matches after pleading guilty to a charge of “unbecoming behavior” at a disciplinary hearing. He also was fined A$11,500 ($11,000).

Warner, who was last month fined A$5,750 for posting abusive comments on Twitter, had been reported for breaching Cricket Australia’s behavior code for an altercation that followed the June 8 Champions Trophy match between England and Australia in Birmingham.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said the “unprovoked physical attack” occurred in the early hours of June 9 after the tournament host’s 48-run win over Australia in the same city.

‘Extremely Remorseful’

While the ECB didn’t identify the player involved, England captain Alastair Cook later confirmed it was Root and that the batsman hadn’t suffered any injury. Newspapers including the Daily Telegraph said Warner threw a punch that partially landed after the pair got into an argument over Root wearing a fancy-dress wig.

At a news conference in London yesterday, Warner said he had apologized to Root and was “extremely remorseful” for his actions. Warner said he’d had a few drinks at the bar, though rejected suggestions that he had an alcohol problem.

Sutherland said players who were with Warner at the time of the incident were also accountable.

“There’s not a lot of good that happens at 2.30 in the morning in a pub or a nightclub,” Sutherland said. “I believe that the team as a whole, and the people who were around him at the time, also need to take responsibility for what happened.”

Warner, who’s averaged 39.46 in 19 Test matches for Australia, was previously found guilty of unbecoming behavior at a May 22 disciplinary hearing after posting abusive messages to journalists, some containing obscene language, on Twitter.

Watching Closely

“I hope this is a turning point for him,” Sutherland said today. “What really counts is his actions in the future, and we’re watching those very closely.”

In March, Australia stood down vice-captain Shane Watson and three other players for the third Test against India after they failed to provide feedback requested by coach Mickey Arthur following back-to-back defeats. Australia went on to lose the series 4-0.

Former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who played 96 Tests, said that the latest incident involving Warner may reflect a cultural problem within the team.

“It hints that there is something culturally, something awry within the team and just that discipline that is required, particularly in the middle of an international tournament,” Gilchrist told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There is a bit for them to work on and I’m sure they are trying to work through that.”

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