• Australia v NZ, Champions Trophy, Group A, Edgbaston

Bailey backs Warner following Root punch

Nagraj Gollapudi at Edgbaston
June 13, 2013
David Warner was reduced to water-boy against New Zealand © AFP

George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain, has called the alleged altercation involving David Warner as a "minor" incident and though it was "disappointing" he felt the issue had been dealt with properly by Cricket Australia.

Even before persistent showers in Birmingham had forced the Australia-New Zealand match to be abandoned, the Warner issue had taken centre stage.

Later in the evening Bailey, whose deputising for an injured Michael Clarke, walked into the media conference room with smile that never left his face during the eight minutes his questioning lasted. He knew cricket was the last thing the media was interested in. He did not look nervous. He went about his job in the seamless fashion he had in the morning while repairing the early damage inflicted on the Australia top order by New Zealand. Regardless of what his critics might say, Bailey is your blue collar worker, who will report to work every day, put up a smile, no matter how grave the situation.

And Wednesday was a grave one even if Bailey tried to impress that it was nothing like that. Kate Hutchison, the Australia media manager, alerted the media in a brief and direct message that Bailey would not be allowed to speak publicly on the Warner issue considering the matter was going to be heard at a Cricket Australia's code of conduct hearing on Thursday morning.

Although it was an expected first line of defence, a brief moment of silence ensued after Hutchison had tried hard to draw the curtain to protect Bailey from making any unwanted comment. Smile intact still, Bailey looked around in anticipation for a reaction as the flash lights dazzled on him. Ian O'Brien, the former New Zealand fast bowler, covering the tournament as a radio commentator, broke the intrigue as he mocked a walkout by saying "right, no questions then," making everyone in the room including Bailey, barring Hutchsion, erupt into loud laughter.

With everyone at ease, Bailey was asked if the Warner incident had disturbed the team in any point before or during the New Zealand match, considering the news was made public by both Cricket Australia and the ECB on the morning before the game. Bailey said it had not affected the team in any way since the alleged incident had occurred "a few days" ago, which is when he was made aware of it. "It's been dealt with from my point of view," Bailey said. "It's disappointing, but a very minor incident and it's been dealt with in house and that's it."

According to Bailey, it was not at all difficult to arrive at Edgbaston to play what was an important match for Australia, who had lost their first match of the Champions Trophy against England last Saturday: "Very comfortable. Very easy. The situation for us, believe it or not, was bigger than this - it was about making sure we won this game to stay in the tournament and play some better cricket than we had against England. And with this sort of a result I am still not sure if we have done that."

Brendon McCullum on the Warner issue

  • As the day wore along, cricket became insignificant. Even Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain admitted that the Warner issue would be the "first question" he would have to address after the match. Although he had heard "whispers" McCullum decided the leave the difficult questions aside.
  • "I don't really want to speak on what is going on with no concrete evidence," McCullum said. "We knew that Australia were a good team regardless whether Dave Warner was opening the batting or not. Our foucs was very much on how we were going to go about playing our game rather than worry about what was going on in the other team."
  • New Zealand are no strangers to off-field incidents. McCullum did not want to play the role of a counselor, but said such incidents did not necessarily destabalise teams, but instead strengthen the unit. "We've had some issues in the past as well. It is never great. It depends on how good your team spirit is and how good your structure is to be able to fight your way through. And sometimes things like these can galvanise the team."

Asked to describe the kind of team-mate Warner was, Bailey gave a positive appraisal. "I love playing cricket with him," he said. "I love his enthusiasm. Love his energy around the group. Love the way he plays. Wish I had the talent that he does. He is a particularly generous team-mate, very giving. I'm looking forward to playing lot more cricket with him in whatever cricket I have."

Even if Hutchison shook her head in annoyance, the questions did not stop. Does Warner have a short fuse? "No, not at all," Bailey said. Were there any occasions where he crossed what Bailey regarded as acceptable line? "No, I don't think so, no. No, not at all. This is the best defense I've got," Bailey said cheekily.

To the surprise of many, Warner had come to the ground despite an early morning CA release which had indicated that he had been dropped for the New Zealand match. He joined the team-mates in the warm-up and acted as twelfth man generously while being pleasant to everyone around.

Bailey ruled out the suggestion about whether the team management had decided to leave Warner back at the hotel instead of asking him to carry the drinks. "No, certainly not from the team perspective. It's been dealt with. I thought he took it on the chin, and he's had a cheer around the group, so it was outstanding. No pun intended. Sorry about that," Bailey said, insisting the fact the the mood in the Australian dressing room was "very normal".

The absence of Clarke has taken its toll in both the batting and the leadership areas despite the honest work of Bailey. Bailey said that having "Pup" would no doubt inject a heavy dose of inspiration but said there was no point speculating considering he was not yet ready to play.

"Well, as a balance, we'd love to have him around, no doubt about that," Bailey said. "But there's no point in having him around if it's not beneficial to A, his back, or B, him getting into a situation where he cannot play for us, so, not really. I think we're at the stage now where, as a growing team, having one person there or not there shouldn't make or break how we play."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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