Why Dave Warner is NOT the bad guy!

Ethics, Values, Ideals, Visions, Dreams, ball tampering…
Where did it all go wrong? It’s time to ask some deeper questions.

How did the ‘best batsman since Bradman’ and an eager rookie end up on the front page of the newspapers? ‘Dave Warner, the bad guy, lured them into it’, is the answer, Bancroft said so himself.   Should we all let out a sigh of relief that the culprit has been identified, the penalty handed out, the bad guy banned for life from a leadership role, problem solved?

If only life was so simple…

We all like to think that bad things are done by bad people and the answer is to weed out the greedy bad apples, and re-educate those with bad values or poor character – make an example of the really ‘bad’ ones – and then to increase the penalties to make sure no one ever does bad things again.

However, research shows that this isn’t actually true – that most of us are actually ‘good’ people and that only 4-5% of the population could be considered habitually ‘bad’. So, maybe Dave Warner is not the ‘bad’ guy?

Research shows that situational and contextual factors have a much bigger impact on the creation of unethical outcomes than most of us think and that unethical outcomes occur gradually over a long period of time.
(see the Hayne Royal Commission into banking)

Consider the cricket scenario…

Dave Warner had been ridiculed and taunted by the crowd in a very personal way – they attacked his wife – he’d been so upset by the taunts he’d almost come to blows with the South African wicketkeeper. He’d been failing with the bat and by the time they got to Cape Town, the team was about to lose the series to South Africa – something that had never happened before.

There were rumours that the South African team had tampered with the ball in the Durban test match – allowing them to swing the ball late and claim the victory. Cricket Australia had a ‘win at all costs’ mantra with the team having been told by administrators that ‘we don’t pay you to lose’. The pressure was on, the context set, a decision was made in the heat of the moment, the die cast…

So, where does moral agency lie?

The simple answer is to blame Dave Warner.
The complex and much more difficult answer to confront is to recognise that a range of personal, situational and contextual factors impact on the creation of ‘bad’ outcomes.

So, next time a scandal hits the front page maybe it’s time to ask some deeper questions…

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Dr Alistair Ping is an Adjunct Professor at QUT Graduate School of Business where he teaches leadership and ethics. He was the recipient of 2017-18 Colin Brain Governance Fellowship at QUT and was also awarded the 2002 Coral Sea Scholarship from the Australian-American Fulbright Foundation to study corporate social responsibility trends in the USA. He has worked as a corporate consultant, trainer and executive coach in Australia, the UK, USA and Africa.


  1. avatar
    Graham Fryer Reply

    A thought provoking piece however I find it hard to get past the fact that these are functioning adults who had free choice. They chose a path and either didn’t exercise moral judgment or had a moral framework that is out of kilter with the standards expected by the general public.

  2. avatar
    Diane Freidman Reply

    I too view these very well paid elite athletes as adults confronted by a range of choices both positive and negative (good and bad). I accept that we all can exercise poor judgement and make wrong decisions at certain times. I do not see Dave Warner as the only “bad guy he was one of three under pressure who felt they had to win at all costs. They have paid dearly with their loss of face with the Australian cricketing public who clearly did not approve of actions.

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