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Australia v Pakistan 2023/24

‘David Warner is a hero’ – Usman Khawaja ‘strongly disagrees’ with Mitchell Johnson’s outburst

Usman Khawaja on Mitchell Johnson
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Usman Khawaja has come out in support of his opening partner David Warner, calling Mitchell Johnson’s explosive criticism harsh.

Johnson wrote a column for The West Australian where he blasted Warner for choosing to finish his Test career on his terms. The former Australia seamer also questioned the role of Australia’s chairman of selectors, George Bailey, for granting Warner’s wish by selecting him for the Test series against Pakistan.

Warner had expressed his Test retirement plans earlier this year, saying that he wished to bow out of the longest format after the Sydney Test against Pakistan. Johnson questioned whether Warner, who was central to the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket in 2018, deserved a ‘swansong’ like this.


“It’s been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal,” Johnson wrote. “Now the way he is going out is underpinned by more of the same arrogance and disrespect to our country. As we prepare for David Warner’s farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?

“Although Warner wasn’t alone in Sandpapergate, he was at the time a senior member of the team and someone who liked to use his perceived power as a ‘leader’.

“Does this really warrant a swansong, a last hurrah against Pakistan that was forecast a year in advance as if he was bigger than the game and the Australian cricket team?”

Khawaja has responded to those comments by saying that Warner and Steve Smith, who was also involved in the ball-tampering saga, have paid their dues for their mistake. “Davey Warner and Steve Smith are heroes in my mind,” Khawaja said. “They missed a year of cricket through dark times in Australian cricket but they have paid their dues.

“No one is perfect. Mitchell Johnson isn’t perfect. I am not perfect. Steve Smith is not perfect. David Warner isn’t perfect. What they have done for the game and to grow the game far outweighs anything else they have done.

“So for [Johnson] to imply that Dave Warner or anyone else involved in [the] Sandpaper [controversy] is not a hero, I strongly disagree with because I believe they have paid their dues.”

Khawaja also came in support of Bailey, arguing that Johnson’s point of him being too close to the players and the team was “harsh”.

Bailey himself didn’t have a whole lot to say about Johnson’s outburst, except that he and the selectors felt that Warner was still part of the best XI that could win Australia the Pakistan Tests. Regarding the criticism directed at him, Bailey raised a question back in response: “If someone can show me how being distant and unaware of what players are going through and what the plans are with the team and with the coaching staff, how that’s more beneficial, I’d be all ears.”

The first Australia vs Pakistan Test starts on December 14 in Perth.

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