Over the past couple of days I've been called a troll, a Jonathan Agnew fan and even an Australia on twitter, because I have a position that is somewhat different from others on the David Warner vs Rohit Sharma incident. The problem is that a nuanced view doesn't fit neatly inside a 140 character window, and so my views have been missinterpreted. Part of that is because people seem to have very absolute views on the matter, when I don't think what happened is really very black and white.
First of all I'll talk about my system of ethics with sledging and other play, and what I consider acceptable, then I'll look at the Warner-Sharma confrontation specifically.
Sledging is an attempt to get a psychological advantage over another player. For me this is part of the game. However, there are limits to what is acceptable. Some examples of forms that are acceptable (in my opinion) are fielders encouraging the bowler in a way that the batsman can hear and that might get into a batsman's head. For example "That's 4 dot balls in a row now" "He's got no idea about the short one" "Look at how he's holding the bat with his bottom hand, I reckon his coach will have words with him about that afterwards. It's causing him to push the bottom of the bat in. I reckon a half volley outside off will see him nick out here." These comments make the batsman doubt either their technique or their form, and can cause them to play false shots.
Likewise batting advice to the batsman is acceptable, even if it's not always genuine. The below example (about 1:20 in) where Hadlee gives Botham some advice on how to play his bowling is a classic. Botham may well have been late on the shot because he was thinking about what Hadlee had said and had anticipated a different delivery.
I f the fielding side feel that the batsmen are doing something underhanded, such at taking a run when the ball was dead, they are entitled to express their displeasure to them.
The more interesting questions are what is unacceptable. Here is my list:
Threats of violence that don't involve the playing of the game. For example "I'm going to break your ribs with the next ball" is acceptable. Likewise "If those close fielders stay there, I'm going to still play my shots and they will get hurt." Both of these, however, need to be in context. A bowler/batsman shouldn't be randomly threatening violence willy-nilly, but in the heat of an exchange they are fine. "I'll see you in the car park afterwards and smash your face in," however is not acceptable.
Racial slurs are not acceptable. They are not acceptable directed at a player or spoken about a player. There's a story about some things that Shane Thompson said to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to try and goad them into bowling short at him (rather than yorkers) that are totally unacceptable things to have been said on a cricket pitch.
Abuse for the sake of it is unacceptable. This includes most (but not all) send-offs. There can be time for a witty send off, provided it is brief and concludes an ongoing conversation. Prolonged send-offs, especially abusive ones, are completely unacceptable.
Likewise abusing someone to get under their skin, without there being any relation to the game or without it being in the context of an ongoing conversation is not on. The way that Fleming subjected Smith to a torrent of nastiness when he arrived at the crease may have helped New Zealand tie the series, but it was not something that New Zealand fans should be proud of.
There are other difficult situations, but generally it is fine to sledge, provided it is done in a way that has a purpose, and doesn't cross the line into pure abuse.
Now lets look at the Warner-Sharma situation. Here's my summary of what happened, as far as I understood it.
1. Rohit Sharma was slightly outside his ground, as he's entitled to be.
2. David Warner threw the ball towards the stumps.
3. The ball was very wide of the mark, and (only just) missed Sharma, and then evaded Haddin.
4. Sharma and Raina then proceeded to run an overthrow.
5. Warner thought that the ball had deflected off Sharma and got angry that they ran an overthrow contrary to established protocol.
6. Warner told Sharma that he was unimpressed
7. Sharma said something to Warner in Hindi. Warner speaks a few words of Hindi and didn't understand the full message but was upset by what he did understand.
8. Warner shouted at Sharma to speak English.
9. Sharma repeated his message in English as the umpires separated the players.
The one key point here is number 2. David Warner is a fantastic fielder. He has produced a few blinding run outs from direct hits. One of the impressive things about his fielding is just how often he hits the stumps. Given his ability, the fact that he missed the stumps by about 3m from close range is peculiar. The fact that he almost hit Sharma was concerning. How off target it was can be seen by the fact that Haddin stepped twice, then dived full length, and still didn't get to the ball.
He thought that he had hit Sharma with the throw, and that, therefore, Sharma shouldn't take a run. He didn't appologise for hitting Sharma, which would normally happen. It makes me wonder if he was aiming to hit Sharma with the throw. For me that is the key thing that was wrong with that incident.
What Warner said after that was in keeping with his understanding that Sharma had taken a run he would not normally be entitled to take. Sharma speaking Hindi successfully got in the head of Warner, and I don't have a particular problem with that. Warner's reaction, likewise, was totally understandable in context. The only issue, and it's a big one, was if Warner deliberately tried to hit Sharma with the ball.
If (in the opinion of the match referee) he did, then it would be a level 2 offence and he should be banned for a couple of games. Instead Warner was charged with a level 1 offence for "using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting." As he had been found guilty of a similar offense within the past 12 months it was automatically raised to a level 2 offense, but he received the minimum fine for that offence, of 50% of his match fee.
The thing that I don't understand is how he was found guilty of that at all. As far as I can see he didn't abuse Sharma, and he didn't use any offensive gestures that I could see. If Sharma had spoken to him in English, then asking him to "speak English" would have been offensive, but given that Sharma didn't actually speak English, it was a perfectly reasonable request (despite not being delivered in a particularly reasonable manner). In the verbal altercation, Warner and Sharma acted equally badly, but not nearly badly enough for a charge.
If the ICC Code of Conduct was applied correctly here, either Warner would have been charged with deliberately throwing the ball at Rohit Sharma or he wouldn't have been charged at all.