Cameron White Is Wrong About Marlon ‘The Legend’ Samuels

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.

6 thoughts on “Cameron White Is Wrong About Marlon ‘The Legend’ Samuels

  1. Noel Carrasco says:

    Sledging is not exactly good for the game though it is tolerated, however, extreme vulgarity has to be reprimanded. (A warning followed by a fine perhaps)

    Anything physical should be punished heavily though. Samuels had to be fined for tugging at David Hussey’s shirt in the first innings. And Warne was wrong in pulling Samuels shirt in the second innings. He should have kept it to just the words. He said he wanted to get his ‘competitive juices’ flowing. I say bollocks to that.

  2. Jonathan D says:

    You’re mixing up two separate issues – the speech/violence distinction, and the question of provocation/retaliation.

    In the parenting example, there are certainly those of us who would be happy to punish both sides (sometimes equally, maybe even more for the retaliator) even when we know exactly what happened. Nothing to do with avoiding factual questions, appearing neutral, the easiest course, or even the parent/child situation – simply because the retaliation is wrong in itself.

    I don’t think you completely disagree – while the contexts aren’t exactly the same, there is some tension between your statements “you get in another player’s face, then you should expect to have a cricket bat coming at you” and “cricketers are not judges, and Warne should have left it to the match referee to pass judgment on Samuels”

    It’s one thing to say that the provocateur is responsible (And can expect a bat), it’s another to say that’s enough to excuse the response.

    (I think the speech issue is a complete sidetrack here – not really relevant to White’s comments or Sachs’ judgment.)

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Thanks for the comment — you’ve teased out some important nuances.

      I suppose I’m more inclined to approve of responses to extreme provocation because I really do view such offenses as outrageous. There is this notion on the cricketing field that it is acceptable for fielders to taunt batsmen, to try and unnerve them or their concentration. I’m afraid I disagree — there are plenty of ways for a bowler to “let the ball talk,” as the cliche goes, and I’d like cricket to remain about the thrilling contest between bat and ball as much as possible.

      Now, Samuels should have been punished for what he did to Hussey, and really, had he followed his shirt-pulling with a ball thrown at Hussey, I would have been perfectly happy if Hussey threw a bat in his direction. (Warne, however, was not an injured party in this little fight, and that’s why I felt he should have left it to the match referee — or even to Hussey, really.)

      Why? Because the alternative — turning a stiff-upper lip, shyly asking the umpire to intervene — is in effect to condone such behavior. To throw a bat, or to respond to an offensive player, is to say, “You are not a gentleman. You have broken all rules of civil discourse. You have left me with no alternative but to resort to violence.”

      Perhaps this is a quaint, pre-modern outlook, but, if you’re a loyal reader, you know that’s how I like my cricket. I see this game as a safe space against encroaching modernity, and so while I place a huge amount of stock on having cricketers behave nicely toward each other, I also want to see offenders punished as they used to in the ol’ days — anyone up for a duel?

      [As for the speech issue, perhaps it doesn't fit well here. But what I'm trying to argue is that speech can be viewed appropriately as provocation. Sledging is tolerated precisely because the "verbals" are seen as not as important as a physical assault. To some extent, that makes sense, but I think it can be taken too far -- far enough to annul the very importance of speech itself.]

  3. JonathanIsAnApologist says:

    there you go again Jonathan. Simple matter of fact – if people like Warne stop provocating, incidents will reduce. Samuels hasn’t gone after many in the field with the bat, has he? While Warne always seems to relish starting incidents on the field?
    Who deserve to be told that they have to sock it?

    It is highly unlikely Samules will involve in another incident – even if provoked – but Warne hasnt learnt has he? In nearly 20 years?

    Leet’s nto focus ont he semantics of what this poster has said. Have the honety to state out the basic important facts taht need to be stated instead of trying to divert the issue by focussing on some obscure semantical one upmanship

    • Jonathan D says:

      Let’s not focus on what the the poster said? Sorry, I read an interesting post which was based on principles far wider than cricket, let alone this incident. I replied because it was interesting, coming from a different starting place from my own, and my memory is that the blogger is interested in such discussions. I’m sure he’ll tell me if he’s not.

      But hey, if you want to ignore the post and point out the boringly obvious facts about the incident, go ahead. Just try to lose the obsession with what I haven’t said.

  4. JMC says:

    The David Hussey shirt tugging is a red herring and has been blown out of proportion. If you look at the incident you will see that there was no chance of a run and Hussey would have been run out by yards had he attempted to complete that run. Had the later incident not occurred, I expect it would have blown over.

    The main driver for Warne’s behaviour was that he was in a match situation that was rapidly becoming a losing one when Samuels came in to bat and was desperate to get a wicket. The shirt tugging was a convenient excuse for Warne to pick on Samuels in a physical way – it is worth clarifying that prior to deliberately throwing the ball to hit Samuels (despite Warne’s protestations to the contrary) he also tugged at Samuel’s shirt while giving him an earful. If the shirt tugging with Hussey hadn’t occurred, Warne would have been looking for another reason to wind up Samuels.

    Hussey was able to deal with the shirt tugging himself at the time, which was more than hour earlier in a different innings – so there no heat of the moment defence for Warne. Do you really think Shane Warne is such a sensitive creature that he felt it necessary to try to right this wrong? If you know your cricket and Shane Warne you would know that his actions were for his own purpose – to help his team win at all costs!

    Wisely, CA has seen through the charade and this is the reason that Samuel’s punishment is a reprimand. As for Cameron White, he should know better, he is either incredibly naive, stupid or ignorant – Warne for all his faults is a highly charismatic leader and can induce misguided loyalty.

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