BRISBANE, Australia - Shane Warne's status as Australian cricket's premier showman won't be devalued despite his ban and fine for a physical clash with Marlon Samuels in a domestic Twenty20 match.
Cricket Australia's chief executive has virtually written off Sunday's incident — which involved Warne tugging at Samuels' shirt and using obscene language and the West Indian allrounder hurling his bat — as a heat-of-the-moment flare up that likely will generate more interest in the Big Bash League.
Warne was suspended for one match and fined $4,500 after being found guilty of three of the four misconduct charges arising from the confrontation during Melbourne derby between the Stars and Renegades, attended by a domestic-cricket-record crowd.
Warne complained about the severity of the sanction following a hearing on Monday but didn't appeal the ban, which rules him out of Melbourne Stars' must-win match against Sydney Thunder on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old legspinner, captain of the Stars, was found guilty of making "inappropriate and deliberate physical contact" with Samuels, and of using obscene or offensive language and dissent at an umpire's decision. Renegades allrounder Samuels is facing charges of "unbecoming behaviour" for throwing his bat and making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact.
Warne was cleared of deliberately throwing the ball at Samuels in an inappropriate or dangerous manner.
"I'm very conscious of the image of the game," Warne said. "I'm disappointed in some of my actions last night. Also I'm pretty disappointed with the severity of the penalties too. That was pretty harsh."
Warne used social media to announce he wouldn't appeal the ban, saying he hoped the Stars could win without him and qualify for the semifinals.
"Sport can be emotional and at times very passionate too," he tweeted. "Yes I went a bit too far with my emotions and passion, but was standing up for my teammate and trying to get us back in the game."
The Renegades sealed a home semifinal in the Big Bash with the lopsided win in front of 46,681 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but the match was overshadowed by the running battle between Warne and Samuels.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said he took a dim view of the breaches, and didn't condone the behaviour, but wasn't entirely scathing of the players and added that "it's a sign of where the Big Bash League is at."
"To be honest, it looked like two teams playing in front of a very big crowd in a highly charged environment, with a lot of stake," he told reporters in Melbourne. "These sort of things are isolated incidents."
Sutherland agreed the players had obligations as role models to young fans, particularly with large TV audiences following the league, but he backed the sanctions imposed by the league's code of conduct commissioner.
"Players are entertainers, they're putting on a show. But first and foremost they're also sportsmen who're competing for big prizes," he said. "Whilst we can stand here and say that we don't condone anything that happened last night. This sort of thing is probably something that only inspires a greater rivalry between the Renegades and the Stars and creates greater interest for the Big Bash League."
Sutherland said Warne's standing in the game — he is No. 2 in the all-time international list of test wicket takers and retired as Australia's leading bowler — wouldn't be hurt by the latest episode.
"The job that Shane has done in the Big Bash League in the last two seasons has been phenomenal," Sutherland said. "He's a great promoter of the game. This doesn't checker his career or his future as a player."
Warne, who retired from international cricket in 2007 but has continued to play in the T20 format in India and Australia, swore at Samuels, then tugged at Samuels' shirt at the end of an over during the Renegades' run chase. He was belatedly responding to an incident in the Stars' innings, in which Samuels was accused of holding back David Hussey as he attempted a run.
After the tugging episode, Warne was fielding when he hit Samuels with an underarm throw and the West Indies allrounder responded by hurling his bat down the pitch, forcing the umpires to intervene to restore calm.
Samuels later top-edged a Lasith Malinga short ball into his helmet and face and had to leave the field with blood pouring from his head.
Samuels has been involved in previous disputes during the Big Bash, the domestic T20 league which was relaunched last year and is played during the summer TV ratings period in an enforced break in Australia's regular first-class competition.
Brisbane Heat coach Darren Lehmann, a former test player, was reprimanded and fined for questioning the legality of Samuels' bowling action last month, while Adelaide Strikers coach Darren Berry is yet to face a hearing for over a pre-match confrontation with the 32-year-old West Indies player last week.
So far, it seems, the shorter the format in cricket, the less imposing the sanctions have become.
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