Just a quick recap for non-cricket fans: After Shane Warne got in Marlon Samuels’ face during a game, Warne then threw a cricket ball at Samuels (it may have just been by accident). At this point, Samuels — who, really, had just heard quite a tirade from Warne — threw his bat high in the air (and in Warne’s general direction). The video is below:
So, Warne got into a fair amount of trouble, but Cricinfo reports the verdict for Samuels (and Cameron White’s reaction):
Samuels was let off with a reprimand after the Code of Conduct commissioner John Price ruled that Samuels threw his bat after “extreme provocation” from Warne, who had just thrown a ball that hit Samuels.
“Being provoked, I don’t think you can use that as an excuse,” White said in Melbourne on Tuesday. “It’s remarkable, isn’t it? How many times have you seen someone throw their cricket bat on a cricket field and get [reprimanded] for being extremely provoked? I’ve never seen it before. That’s what the judiciary came up with.”
White is acting as many parents do when their squabbling children start to yell, “Well he started it — No, I didn’t — Yes, you did!” The easiest course for any parent at this point is to appear neutral and punish both sides equally, and leave aside the thorny factual question of who started what.
While that approach may work for parenting, it’s silly when it comes to adjudicating conflicts among adults. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can still fucking hurt. Warne was clearly the provocateur during this incident, and his constant, unyielding attempts to unsettle Samuels was designed to elicit some reaction.* I’m passionate about this case because of a similar one that occurred in 2008 between Gautam Gambhir and Shane Watson. The Australian tormented Gambhir during the course of his innings, and started to swear at him. Gambhir, understandably angry, elbowed Watson. The judge — the estimable A. Sachs — dismissed Anil Kumble’s argument that swearing is particularly offensive to South Asians, who place high stock on the power of words. As he put it, “However severe the verbal assaults on them may be, players are obliged not to give vent to their anger through physical retaliation.”
Again, very silly. Speech matters, and it can in fact cause harm. To focus on the physical aspect of an argument seems natural, since violence among men is always a concern. But it is ridiculous not to view harmful speech as potentially injurious as well. Sachs would prefer that players turn the other cheek for as long as they stay at the crease, and maintain a masculine silence about the whole thing. Meanwhile, the sledger — the one having fun at somebody’s expense — enjoys a massive legal loophole, because he knows that, to a large extent, sledging in cricket is tolerated (and increasingly celebrated).
No, commissioner Price was right, and White wrong: you get in another player’s face, then you should expect to have a cricket bat coming at you.
*I understand that Warne was simply “repaying” Samuels for tugging at Hussey’s shirt, which I felt was reprehensible. However, cricketers are not judges, and Warne should have left it to the match referee to pass judgment on Samuels.