Abusing someone’s mother and sister and their own appearance is not personal but a comment about someone’s wife is?
This was the astonishing defence Steve Smith, Australia’s cricket captain, provided on Monday for the behaviour of David Warner in his staircase clash with Quinton de Kock on the penultimate day of the first Test against South Africa in Durban.
The Australian vice-captain and the Proteas wicketkeeper/batsman had an angry clash that was then publicised on Monday morning via CCTV footage, with Warner responding to something De Kock is believed to have said about his wife.
The comment was made after De Kock, according to the Proteas team, had endured nearly an hour of sustained sledging out on the field, in which his mother, his sister and his appearance were definitely brought up.
“What was said and done is regrettable on both sides. Quinton de Kock said something quite personal that provoked a response from David. We were very chirpy out on the field before that, but we didn’t get into anything personal like that. That crossed the line.
“It’s up to the umpires to police what happens out on the field but as far as I’m aware, there was nothing personal said by us at all. It’s about playing within the spirit of the game, but sometimes emotions do get the better of people, and at times we need to pull them back,” Smith said after his team’s clinical 118-run victory.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said although he expected plenty of banter from Australia – and would be disappointed if he didn’t get it – things had escalated to an unacceptable level on the fourth day and the umpires needed to manage the situation better.
“There’s no need for these things to go further than staying on the field. There’s always chirping, every match against Australia you expect it, but there needs to be boundaries. Both parties said a lot of personal stuff which made it go off. But it needs to stay on the field. That’s the way we play against them.
“So you’re never surprised and it’s normal business, but it’s disappointing how things unfolded on Sunday. The umpires play a big role in ensuring things don’t get to that stage. There’ve been a lot of games where we’ve been penalised and the old days of saying and doing what you’re want aren’t here anymore. But I don’t decide where the line is,” Du Plessis said.