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ICC crackdown 'a bit of a joke': Warner

29 January 2016

AB Medallist unimpressed with governing body's continued hard-line stance on player behaviour

Newly-crowned Allan Border Medallist David Warner has labelled the International Cricket Council’s crackdown concerning on-field  player behaviour "a bit of a joke".

In the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, the ICC made it clear they would be adopting a firmer stance on player behaviour, particularly exchanges between opponents as well as over-zealous wicket celebrations.

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But Warner, who was Wednesday night crowned Allan Border Medallist as Australia’s player of the year, believes the crackdown has diminished the entertainment value of the sport.

"It's been tough with the crackdown of the ICC at the moment – I'm not going to have a pot shot at them but it's becoming a bit of a joke," he told cricket.com.au. "The players can't celebrate as much.

"Back in the day I used to love watching Glenn McGrath bowl to the West Indians, and them bowling to us, and (the bowlers) getting in the faces of the batsmen.

"We know sometimes things might get a little bit out of hand, but that's what we love about the game; we love the contest and it (the crackdown) is really taking away from the bat-and-ball contest."

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The hard-line stance imposed by cricket's governing body hasn't stopped a series of exchanges between Indian firebrand Virat Kohli and several Australians throughout the limited-overs series this month, and while lauding the interactions, Warner believes that he and Kohli are now targeted for special attention due to their reputations.

"I think it's fantastic," he said of the light-hearted confrontations between Kohli and James Faulkner during the ODI series.

"Virat's a very passionate guy, he leads by example for his country. He sets the tone, and that's what I try to do for Australia as well when I'm on the field … we're always in the camera's vision, it always gets us and we have to cop that on the chin and move on."

As he has matured into a leadership role within the national side over the past 12 months, Warner has clearly wrestled with the conflict between the on-field behaviour expected of a senior figure and his natural inclination toward combativeness.

On Australia's tour of the Caribbean that followed last year's World Cup, he effectively imposed a sledging ban on himself, cutting out all on-field chatter from his game.

The 'cold turkey' approach didn't last, and Warner cites his upbringing in Sydney's infamously aggressive grade cricket scene as one reason why. 

"It was really hard during that West Indian series not to say much, but I decided just to change it and see how it would go," the 29-year-old said.

"It did help a little bit, but I love getting into a contest and into a battle with those bowlers.

Watch: Warner wins AB Medal

"People think I'm this big, muscly guy that can give it to people on the field and whatnot, but that's just how I play my game, that's how I get up (for the occasion) and it's what helps me strive to succeed for our team.

"It's being in your face, and that's what I was brought up doing playing cricket. I remember grade cricket as an 18, 19-year-old, if you were going to get anywhere, you had to have thick skin because you were getting sledged left, right and centre.

"It made me a tough person. That's why I'm probably no-holds barred (with my attitude), because that's where I like to go with my cricket – I like to be aggressive, and that shows with the bat as well."

Kohli also spoke last week about up his upbringing in Delhi, a heaving city of more than 15 million people, and how it was crucial in forming his attitudes to the game.

"I come from a city where you always had to fight your way up the system," the Indian said.

"And I think things that happen in your life make you mentally tougher and things don't bother you after a while because you know you're working hard enough.

"You don't really go out there and take unnecessary things being said to you from anyone.

"I follow that in life and I follow that in cricket as well."

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Warner, Test vice-captain and one of his country's most experienced players, has quickly built a record to match some of Australia's greatest batsmen.

Four Test hundreds this summer took his tally to 16 in 49 matches – more than the likes of Doug Walters, Ian Chappell and Michael Slater, and at a better rate than all bar Sir Donald Bradman and Steve Smith among Australians.

As such, the one-time Twenty20 specialist and Australia's new Test Player of the Year now views himself chiefly as a five-day batsman.

"I like to think so now," he added. "I think I've done the hard yards and really shown everybody what I'm capable of.

"Now it's about keeping that on-field and training balance, and going out there and not going away from my game plan.

"That's one thing that's stuck in my mind. When I speak to (batting coach) Michael di Venuto at training, it's about getting what I need to be right and prepared for the game.

"For me it's not about hitting a lot of balls – it's about specific training, whether it's 20 or 30 minutes of throwdowns, and then if I feel the need to face the bowlers, I'll face the bowlers."

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