Cricket: Australia teammate Usman Khawaja leaps to David Warner's defence after scathing attack from Mitchell Johnson

  • 05/12/2023
Mitchell Johnson and David Warner in happier times.
Mitchell Johnson and David Warner in happier times. Photo credit: Getty Images

Australia batsman Usman Khawaja has mounted a spirited defence of David Warner after former teammate Mitchell Johnson questioned his place in the test squad and said he had not taken full responsibility for the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

Warner, named in a 14-man squad for the series-opener against Pakistan, has made no secret of his hopes to bow out of the longest format after the third test at his home Sydney Cricket Ground.

Johnson wrote in a column that the 37-year-old opener did not deserve his place in the side based on form, or warrant a "hero's send-off" because he had "never really owned" his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.

"As we prepare for David Warner's farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?" Johnson wrote in The West Australian.

"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?"

Usman Khawaja.
Usman Khawaja. Photo credit: Getty Images

"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".

"Now the way he is going out is underpinned by more of the same arrogance and disrespect to our country."

Johnson added: "What will fans bring for Warner? Bunnings would sell out of sandpaper."

Khawaja disagreed with Johnson's view, saying Warner and former captain Steve Smith had done plenty for Australian cricket and their 12-month bans for 'Sandpaper-gate' were punishment enough.

"Warner and Smith are heroes in my mind," Khawaja told reporters on Monday.

"They missed a year of cricket through dark times. No one's perfect. Mitchell Johnson's not perfect.

"What they have done for the game - how they have grown the game - far outweighs anything else they have done. "

"To say Dave Warner or anyone else involved in sandpaper (gate) is not a hero ... I strongly disagree because they have paid their dues. A year out of cricket is a long time."

Former fast bowler Johnson's column triggered a fierce reaction in Australian media on Monday and criticism from some local sports pundits.

Former test captain Tim Paine, however, said Johnson had made some "great points" about Warner's form.

"David hasn't been playing well and would other people be getting the run he's getting now? Probably not," Paine said on radio station SEN.

"But in my opinion, he's got credits in the bank because he is one of the all-time greats.

"I think you can read between the lines that (Johnson) and Davey don't get along."