Australia are scheduled to play Pakistan in a three-Test series at home starting December 14. The third of those Tests will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Warner’s home venue, and is expected to be the last Test match of the 37-year-old opening batter’s career.
Johnson, who shared the Australian dressing room with Warner for a good part of six years, has slammed him for expressing his desire for a farewell Test and the Australian selectors for going ahead and giving him the farewell by selecting him for the Test series against Pakistan.
Earlier this year, before the World Test Championship final against India, Warner had said that he expected the Sydney Test against Pakistan in January 2024 to be his last. Johnson wrote in his Sunday column in The West Australian that Warner’s quest for a farewell Test came from the same place of arrogance and disrespect for Australia which was responsible behind the infamous ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
“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?”
Johnson pointed out that Warner has not been amongst the runs in Test cricket for a long time now and still has an active lifetime leadership ban: “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?
“Warner certainly isn’t Australia’s Test captain and never deserved to be for that matter. In fact, he ends his career under a lifetime leadership ban. Yes, he has a decent overall record and some say is one of our greatest opening bats. But his past three years in Test cricket have been ordinary, with a batting average closer to what a tailender would be happy with.
“Granted he made his double century against South Africa at the MCG last summer, but they were the only runs he had scored in years. Leading into this year’s Ashes series that was the only time he had reached 50 in his previous 17 Test innings.”
Reiterating Warner’s role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, Johnson questioned whether he was bigger than the game. “It’s the ball-tampering disgrace in South Africa that many will never forget.
“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?”
Johnson also questioned the role of chief selector George Bailey. He wrote that Bailey is too close to the team and the players. “The handling of Warner in recent years, who played with Bailey in all three forms, raises the question of whether Bailey was simply too quickly out of playing and into the job and too close to some of the players.
“I also wonder what the role of the head selector is these days. It seems to have moved to be a part of the inner sanctum rather than standing aside from it. There’s now throw downs for the players, golfing together and celebrating wins to all hours.”
Bailey, it must be pointed out, has been the chief selector of Australia for the last two years, a period in which they have won ICC tournaments in each of the three formats.
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