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Cook insists England not to blame in Warner spat

England captain Alastair Cook says he's disappointed with the distraction caused by the nightclub altercation between David Warner and Joe Root, but has urged his side to move on.

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It just had to be Joe Root didn't it? Why couldn't David Warner have taken a swing at Kevin Pietersen? At one time or another, most of the South African batsman's English teammates have wanted to.

He is beneficiary of more than a century of goodwill accumulated by far less well remunerated players. 

It says something about the state of Australian cricket that Warner took a crack at a headline writer's dream. The reason many believe that, without a substantial change in form and attitude, the Ashes campaign is already - sorry, I can't resist - rooted. Laugh or you might cry.

Australia's David Warner carries water onto the pitch.

Water boy: David Warner was stood down from the Champions Trophy match between Australia and New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Hear reports Root received a ''glancing blow'' and wonder if it showed up on Hot Spot. Muse that at least Warner has increased his recent strike rate. Wonder who has suffered the most at the flailing fists of Australian sportsmen in recent days - Root, Nate Myles or a corner-post flag at Etihad Stadium?

The unfortunate surname of Warner's victim? Not even a former English captain could resist the ribald punnery. ''Good start to the tour for Warner,'' tweeted Michael Vaughan. ''Getting a Root early …!!!'' Boom boom.

And so on and so on until you have almost convinced yourself Warner's incredible lack of discipline was just a harmless night out with the lads; that it was not symbolic of a malaise that has gripped the Australian team, and which imperils their seemingly slender chances of bringing back the urn.

Joe Root was the subject of an 'unprovoked' attack, says the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Joe Root was the subject of an 'unprovoked' attack, says the England and Wales Cricket Board. Photo: Getty Images

Which, of course, it was. Regardless of the circumstances that remain - to use a term favoured in political circles - fluid.

What happened at the Walkabout in Birmingham? An establishment where, at 2am, you would expect to find raucous backpackers, but not necessarily elite international sportsmen engaged in a tournament of admittedly dubious worth? Australia have not played spin well recently. So be careful of what is being pitched up now.

The English authorities took to the moral high ground like veteran Sherpas. Indeed, so rapid was their ascent, you could not help suspect they were eager to strike an early blow in the (hopefully) less violent proceedings that will take place on the field.

Root, they swiftly said, was the victim of an ''unprovoked physical attack''. The Yorkshireman was, as it were, rooted to the spot as Warner did his best.

But wait. Soon there were whispers Root had been using a wig - naturally, twentysomething international cricketers drinking in a public place wear novelty wigs - as a beard. Some sort of clumsy impersonation of South African batsman Hashim Amla, it was ventured.

Warner, we were invited to believe, took offence. Which is where several pints of the innkeeper's finest and reality part ways, and some sober thinking is required.

An impersonation of Amla is not an invitation to be punched in the face. Regardless of what a generation of bowlers stonewalled by the obdurate South African batsman might think.

Which leaves us with the unvarnished truth. Warner has acted like an oaf. Again. He deserves swift and immediate punishment. Team management needs to draw a line in the sand. And not just to start a game of beach cricket.

But putting Warner on the next flight home will not solve the issue at the - sorry - root of Australia's problems. Many of the Australian players are not good enough to justify the hype that accompanies their underachievement. Certainly not good enough to justify the money they are being paid.

Warner is leading a rock star lifestyle with a club cricketer's average. He seems deluded by the trappings his limited achievements so far have afforded. Riches automatically bestowed on our ''elite'' players through a contractual system that fails to distinguish between the relative plodders of today and the superstars of the past. Contracts that will grow in proportion with the vast new television-rights deal recently signed by Cricket Australia, and augmented by the Monopoly money of the IPL.

Yet Warner's fame and fortune, to date, are mostly a stroke of good fortune. He is the right man at - for Australian cricket - the wrong time. He can hardly claim to have contributed vastly to the game's financial well-being. Rather, he is the beneficiary of more than a century of goodwill accumulated by far less well-remunerated players.

With such great fortune comes responsibility. Something Warner has shirked. Don't moan, then, that he is the victim of a rapacious media or merely a participant in some blokey high jinks.

Otherwise, the only way Australia will dismiss the English is by knocking them out.

Twitter - @rdhinds

rhinds@fairfaxmedia.com.au