Australia's David Warner
David Warner Image Credit: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG: Australia opening batsman David Warner has called on South African supporters to show respect ahead of the three-match Twenty20 International series starting in Johannesburg on Friday.

Warner was painted as the villain of the piece during the “Sandpapergate” scandal in March 2018, in which he was accused of trying to alter the condition of the ball during a Test match along with his captain Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft.

He was handed a one-year suspension by Cricket Australia, but the incident followed goading from South African fans that Warner felt crossed the line of decency.

After a bust-up in the first Test between the Australian and South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, some home fans wore masks of Sonny Bill Williams’s face in the next test.

It was a reference to the fact that Warner’s wife had previously been involved in a relationship with the New Zealand rugby player.

“I’m not concerned about it, but at the end of the day you have to have some form of respect as well,” Warner told reporters on Thursday.

“It was poor, but for me it is about moving forward. If people want to go to the game and carry on like that, then it is on themselves, they have to look at themselves in the mirror.

“At the end of the day they are representing their country as spectators watching a game of cricket. I am sure they don’t want teams leaving here and criticising the way their fans are acting.

“I know what is going to get thrown at me, I always do wherever I am playing in the world. It is nothing I haven’t heard before.” Opening batsman Warner says he is easily able to switch off while playing, especially with the hurly-burly nature of T20.

“If you are batting you are just ingrained in what is ahead of you and if I am fielding it is about watching the captain and making sure I am staying focused, and I always do,” he said.

Warner echoed the sentiments of Smith this week when he said Australia’s reception in South Africa, so far, had been very friendly.

“Every single person we have come across that has asked for a photo, or that we have come in contact with, have nothing but great words to say in welcoming us to the country,” he said.

The second match in the Twenty20 series is in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, before the finale at Cape Town on Wednesday. The sides then play three One-day Internationals.