David Warner has something to prove in this Ashes. He did not touch a drink since joining the Australians in the Caribbean direct from the Indian Premier League in May. He celebrated win over West Indies with a green tea while his teammates raised a glass to toast their two Test wins.
In an interview with The Canberra Times Warner recollects that infamous night of 2013 in Birmingham, and said he felt embarrassed for that incident.
“It is quite challenging to go out and have those big nights,” he says.
“But I think it’s more the fact that having a little one and going out and having a big night and then waking up at six in the morning with a monster headache.”
Warner on the morning of Sunday June 9, 2013 woke up in his room at the team hotel in Birmingham with a headache. Hours earlier, the most infamous off filed incident happened in the history of Ashes in the Australian-themed Walkabout Inn just around the corner in the city’s Broad Street part district.
The then 26-year-old had ventured out after Australia’s defeat to England in the first game of the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston with teammates Matthew Wade, Clint McKay, Phillip Hughes, Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell in tow.
“We were in the bar in the hotel, a few of us, and we all decided to go next door and have a couple of drinks,” Warner recalls. “We all went out and a lot of the people from the ICC were there as well, but it was more the fact that the bar was next to the hotel. It was convenient; it wasn’t a sought-out thing.”
The Australians settled into a roped-off area at the Walkabout, where New Zealand players were also enjoying a night out, and before long a group of England players including Root, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn turned up.
“We had a place sectioned off for us and they decided to come in … it was probably one, 1.30 in the morning … obviously not part of our group,” Warner says. “It was more me giving marching orders in a way.”
Warner said “little things that were going on throughout the night” that provoked him for “glancing blow” on baby faced Joe Root but he claimed that was an unwanted incident he never wanted to involved into.
However, he described what set him off and triggered his lunge at Root. The young Yorkshireman’s positioning of a green-and-gold wig on his chin, which Warner interpreted as mocking the South African batsman Hashim Amla.
“A mate of mine was actually wearing it on top of his head like a Malinga wig, that’s what it was. He was wearing it on his head and (Root) decided to come in and take it off my mate’s head and start acting the way he did,” he says.
“When people are drunk that’s what they do but I thought it was a bit inappropriate the way he went about that stuff so I went over and tried to take it off him. I just think in today’s society you shouldn’t be fooling around with that kind of stuff. And he probably didn’t mean anything by it at all but I just thought … actually I can’t say I thought … I probably let my aggression and alcohol take over there and probably made an excuse for me to go over there and actually take it off him.”
It was then that he confronted Root and the so-called “glancing blow” took place. He was dragged away from Root by McKay and the parties promptly dispersed. The matter apparently settled, Warner when back to the hotel although not before, he notes with a smile, “leaving there and seeing Steven Finn asleep in the gutter”.
Two days later the phone rang in Warner’s hotel room. “I got a missed call at 11 o’clock at night … I can’t remember whether it was from [team manager] Gav [Dovey] or [coach] Mickey [Arthur], saying that I’d been stood down from the game tomorrow which was against New Zealand,” he recalls.
“I didn’t look on my phone then but at 6.30 the next morning my room phone rang and I got called into Mickey’s room. They said that I was going to miss that game, then I was on a phone hook-up with James Sutherland at nine o’clock that morning or the next morning for a phone hearing with the judge [Gordon Lewis] that they used to work out the punishment. I got handed down my punishment and obviously the CEO came out and disagreed with what I said and said it was a despicable act. Which, yeah, it was quite childish on my behalf.
“But obviously”, he adds cheekily, “from there it started what I think is becoming a great career so far.”
Warner is right – he’s well and truly moved on, taking his tally of Test hundreds from three to 12 in the two years since – but even as he’s stamped himself as one of the world’s best batsmen there are aspects of the affair that still don’t sit well.
After being rolled out for a public shaming in a press conference alongside captain Michael Clarke in London he was ostracised from the squad before being sent to South Africa for match practice while the Ashes began at Trent Bridge and then Lord’s.
“That’s probably the most disappointing thing from my perspective in the way I feel I was treated. Yeah, what I did was wrong and totally out of line … but I think the way I was dealt with was probably unnecessary in that I had to train by myself away from team and not be a distraction, whereas you’d think that the team would actually galvanise behind you and pull you in the right direction,” he said.