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David Warner’s talk of an Ashes war takes the joy out of cricket | Simon Burnton

The idea that a sportsman might, in order to motivate himself, need to despise his opponents is surely deplorable

For much of Monday, the Guardian’s cricket homepage led with two stories from two very different ends of the sport’s pyramid. In one, Australia’s David Warner pledged to unleash “hatred” and “war” when the Ashes get under way next month; the other told of a 15-year-old umpire who had been assaulted in an under-11 game in Melbourne. And the juxtaposition called to mind something that Ted Dexter once said, suggesting: “The general atmosphere in cricket as a whole is determined by the cricket at the top, Test match cricket.”

In 1909, Lord Alverstone, then president of Surrey CCC, spoke of his attitude to the game. “Success does not solely depend upon the number of games that are won,” he said. “Success depends on playing games in a true and sporting manner, in acting in a friendly and sporting manner towards opponents, in valuing friendships made on the cricket field, for real cricket friendships last always. In every phase of life, in defeat or in victory, the endeavour should be to ‘play the game’.” It is a handy definition of the so-called “spirit of cricket”, a vague notion of gentlemanliness that has for ever doused the sport with tiresome streams of sanctimony. It is a competitive sport, and should be played hard. But there must surely exist a line that should not be crossed.

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