Khawaja Defends 'Hero' Warner After Stinging Johnson Criticism


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Mon 4 Dec 2023, 8:37 PM

Usman Khawaja jumped to the defence of his opening partner David Warner on Monday after stinging criticism of the veteran batsman from Australian great Mitchell Johnson.

Former fast bowler Johnson hit out after Warner kept his spot in Australia's squad to face Pakistan in the first Test later this month despite a poor run of red-ball form.

The three-match home series against Pakistan is expected to be Warner's farewell to Test cricket.

The decision to keep faith with Warner provoked a strong response from Johnson, who questioned why his former team-mate should be given a "hero's send-off" in light of his poor Test form.

"It's been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal," Johnson wrote in The West Australian newspaper at the weekend, also bringing up Warner's central role in the notorious "Sandpaper-gate" ball-tampering scandal in 2018..

"As we prepare for David Warner's farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?

"Why a struggling Test opener gets to nominate his own retirement date. And why a player at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Australian cricket history warrants a hero's send-off?"

Steve Smith and Warner were both banned for a year for their part in the scandal, but Khawaja told reporters on Monday: "Davey Warner and Steve Smith are heroes in my mind."

"No one's perfect," Khawaja added.

"Mitchell Johnson isn't perfect, I'm not perfect, Steven Smith isn't perfect, David Warner isn't perfect.

"What they've done for the game from a positive point of view... far outweighs anything else they've done.

"So for (Johnson) to imply that Davey Warner or anyone else involved in the sandpaper (scandal), is not a hero, I strongly disagree with that."

Australia's chief selector George Bailey refused to be drawn in detail on Johnson's comments but stressed Warner's ability meant he warranted his place in the squad for the opening meeting with Pakistan.

"Ultimately we still think he's in our best 11 players to win the first Test," he said.

Meanwhile, Warner's manager James Erskine also hit back at Johnson, stating that his questioning Warner's selection isn't logical.

"Let me tell you, anyone can get a headline. The fact is (Warner's selection) is just logical. The three (replacement) candidates will be (Matthew) Renshaw, (Cameron) Bancroft - who has played pretty well in the Sheffield Shield - and (Marcus) Harris. Now they've all had spells opening the batting for Australia," he said.

He went on to point out that the trio of Harris, Bancroft and Renshaw had managed to claim just one century between them in 38 Test outings and their combined average was somewhere in the mid-20s.

Hew backed Warner's performance, stating that he scored a half-century during his last Test innings in the Ashes and was the leading run-scorer for Australia in the 2023 ODI World Cup.

The first Test against Pakistan in Perth starts on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then Sydney, beginning January 3.

Warner has indicated he plans to quit the five-day game after the Test at his home Sydney Cricket Ground, but will continue in white-ball cricket.

But over the last two years in Test cricket, Warner has managed to average fewer than 30 runs with only one century.

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