Twenty20 time for CA to end Warner's captaincy ban
It was nearly three years ago that David Warner played the straightest of straight bats to a media question on his continuing leadership ban in all forms of Australian cricket.
Cricket Australia imposed a life captaincy ban on Warner for his role in the Cape Town sandpaper scandal in 2018, a penalty not imposed on fellow conspirators Steve Smith, the Test captain at the time, and Cam Bancroft.
“I have to respect the decision and move on,” Warner said in 2019. “I haven’t looked back and keep looking forward. My job is to score runs. I am quite comfortable at the moment.” You could understand Warner not wanting to rock the boat but it was notable that once the recorders were turned off and notepads stowed away, he thanked his interrogator for the question and suggested it could lead to a story of some interest to all cricket followers.
Warner treaded carefully on - and off - the record on that occasion but it wouldn’t have required much of a leap for a listener to conclude that he was keen to captain his country at some point in the future. It is one of the great iniquities in Australian cricket that Warner, who has long been assimilated back into the game after serving his suspension for the ball-tampering affair, is still not allowed to captain.
Yet Smith, who oversaw and approved the shift of ball-scratching duties from Warner to Bancroft in what became one of the biggest scandals in the history of Australian sport, is not only allowed to captain but did so last summer. Smith replaced Pat Cummins in Adelaide during last year’s Ashes campaign when COVID rules forced the late withdrawal of the official captain.
And Bancroft, who was the ham-fisted perpetrator of the tampering fiasco, can captain
any team for which he is selected. The reason this issue has greater currency now than at any other point in the past three years, and that includes last summer when Tim Paine’s own scandal scuppered his Test captaincy, is that Australia are about to enter a World Cup with massive questions over their leadership options.
Twenty20 captain Aaron Finch will start the tournament under significant pressure to hold his spot after a middling winter that saw him score just 31 runs in six ODI innings, prompting his retirement from that format, and battle for runs in various positions in the 20-over game.
Smith can’t even make the T20 team.
Cummins will be a key member, and has proved a capable Test captain, but it would take a considerable change of heart for him to add the T20 captaincy to his burden.
If there was ever a time that CA chairman Lach Henderson should urge his fellow directors to swallow their pride and widen their vision, it is now.
The CA board meets tomorrow and while there is speculation that it cannot overturn the code of conduct finding on the technical grounds that Warner waived his appeal rights, the reality is that CA’s over-riding responsibility is to act in the best interest of Australian cricket. If that means reinstating Warner’s eligibility to captain, then that is what CA is obliged to do. Yes, Warner committed a crime in Cape Town but so too did Smith and Bancroft.
There is no legitimate reason that his punishment should be so much more severe than theirs, and continue years on from when their penance was served. If Smith can be rehabilitated enough to captain Australia in an Ashes Test, there is no reason that Warner should not be eligible to lead his country in a T20 campaign in which he is sure to be a key figure.