David Warner and the other cricketer-journalist duels

David Warner’s fate now probably hinges on Cricket Australia’s investigations © PTI

David Warner’s outburst on Twitter has created a new benchmark for player-journalist feuds, but such rifts are not new in the cricketing world. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at some of the nasty encounters between the cricketers and the media men.

“Shock me @crashcraddock1 talking s*** about ipl jealous p****. Get a real job. All you do is bag people. #getalife”

Thus ran David Warner’s tweet. He was venting his feelings about Robert Craddock’s comment piece on Indian Premier League (IPL) and its problems for News Limited Newspapers, and 140 words seemed too limiting. As if aware that Cricket Australia would no-ball his social-network delivery, the Australian southpaw followed it up with six more … each more bitter than the next.

Craddock did not dignify the outburst by responding to it, but his colleague in News Limited, Malcolm Conn, was not so restrained. His tweet ran, “@davidwarner31 cricket is a real job? Please. Most people pay to play. Million dollar cricketers milking the IPL are hardly the best judges.”

The exchanges that followed between the two do not qualify as classical literature, but makes for thoroughly interesting reading. Warner exploded, “@malcolmconn coming from you champion all you do is talk s*** as well. What about encouraging Aus players rather then (sic) bagging them.”

And Conn’s response was more biting, factual, with splendid imagery and devoid of grammatical curiosities: “@davidwarner31 You lose 4-0 in India, don’t make a run, and you want to be tickled on the tummy? Win the Ashes and get back to me.”

Warner’s fate now probably hinges on Cricket Australia’s investigations — and perhaps deliberations about damage control. While his rather uncouth outbursts have created a new benchmark in the lower abyss of cricketer-journalist relationships, such altercations are not entirely new in the history of the game. Down the years, players targeted by the media have often responded with words and gestures that have left no doubt about their disgust.

Some of the reactions have come in the wake of on field success. One remembers Nasser Hussain celebrating his century in the NatWest Trophy final of 2001 by pointing to the number ‘three’ on his jersey and raising three fingers at the space-age media centre in Lord’s in an innovative salute. It was obviously meant for Sky commentators Ian Botham and Bob Willis, and Test Match Special stalwart Jonathan Agnew. These gentlemen had been harping about Hussain’s batting credentials in the One-Day game, repeatedly suggesting that he should promote Andrew Flintoff to number three rather than coming in first drop himself.

David Warner and the other cricketer-journalist duels

Nasser Hussain angrily gestures to the press box after scoring his century during the match between England and India in the NatWest One-Day series final at Lord s on July 13, 2002 © Getty Images

One also recalls Rahul Dravid’s uncharacteristic angry waft of the bat at the press box after reaching his century at Eden Gardens during the miracle of 2001. Harassed by the media after a rare lean run, it was perhaps his one and only public show of anger during his international cricket days. It seems, though, that the shortest version of the game has shortened his temper as well if his recent reaction after the dismissal against Mumbai Indians is anything to go by.

And who can forget Denesh Ramdin’s inane cryptic scribble that emerged from his cricketing whites after his hundred against England last June. The four words, only two of which were genuine English, were aimed at the great Viv Richards. The Antiguan legend, wearing his hat of the commentator, had made some strong observations about the batting of the West Indian wicketkeeper.

David Warner and the other cricketer-journalist duels

West Indies batsman Denesh Ramdin (above) celebrates his century with a note for Viv Richards during Day Four of the 3rd Investec Test match between England and West Indies at Edgbaston on June 10, 2012 in Birmingham © Getty Images

Sometimes, players have resorted to words rather than these on-field gestures. When Ravi Shastri invited MS Dhoni to the presentation podium after India had beaten Australia in the T20 World Cup semi-final at Durban in 2007, the ice-cool Indian captain commenced with, “Before I start I should say I read an article by you in Cricinfo. You’d said Australia were the favourites. Today I think me and the boys, we proved you wrong.”

It is surprising that former cricketers-turned-journalists have been more prone to get into conflict with the players. Ian Chappell had needled Kim Hughes so persistently during the latter’s troubled stint as the Australian captain that the skipper had requested the Board not to allow Chappell to interview him. The Board had refused the plea, perhaps leading to his premature resignation and end of Test career.

On the other side of the world, things had heated up so drastically between Brian Lara and Michael Holding that the great left-hander had refused to give interviews to the legendary Jamaican fast bowler.

And before Ian Botham took over the microphone to get on the nerves of Hussain, he himself had been none too pleased by the journalistic opinions of his former Somerset skipper Peter Roebuck.

However, there are enough examples of cricketers getting agitated — and sometimes violent — with pressmen who had no cricketing pretensions.

Botham had once jostled Henry Blofeld at the airport after being criticised about his captaincy during the Caribbean tour of 1981. In 2010, Botham’s ‘dear friend’ Ian Chappell called Daily Mail correspondent Charlie Sale ‘a master of the fairy tale’. It was after Sale had reported that the former Australian captain and the England all-rounder had gone for each other’s throats in a car park.

During his playing days, Viv Richards was accused by English journalists of manipulating the umpires with a finger flapping appeal, forcing them to declare Rob Bailey out during the Barbados Test of 1990. This led to a lot of bad blood and some heated exchange with the English press contingent, including the reputed Christopher Martin-Jenkins. It took a combined press conference involving both Richards and Martin-Jenkins to calm things down.

Sunil Gavaskar was involved a lifelong feud with two well-known Delhi journalists, the Times of India sports editor S Sriman, and KR Wadhwaney, the veteran Indian Express cricket writer. Wadhwaney’s book Indian Cricket Controversies reads like a disguised manifesto against the great Indian opening batsman. The curious volume — largely without reference or named sources — ‘exposes’ over a hundred uncomfortable secrets of Indian cricket and the Little Master seems to be the mastermind behind roughly half of them. Gavaskar did not really enjoy the best of relations with the journalists of Bengal either.

Former Indian batting maestro Dilip Vengsarkar once tore the draft of an interview to bits before sending it back to the offending sports magazine. It was later published in full, with pictures of the mutilated version that the Bombay batsman mailed to the magazine office.

And of course, history tells us that sometimes there needs to be no provocation on the part of journalists. Just a minor gap in communication may send sparks flying all over the place. During the 1996 World Cup, England captain Mike Atherton could not make head or tail Pakistani journalist Ashgar Ali’s questions through his unfamiliar accent, and ended up exclaiming: “Can someone get this buffoon out of here?”  Ali subsequently tried to take Atherton to court and later published a book titled ‘Buffoon: Me or You?’ Unfortunately, the journalist was later turned down by his fiancée as she did not want to be known as the wife of a buffoon!

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)