ANI Photo | Bailey backs Warner to play SCG Test against Pakistan, but maintains performance a key factor for selection

Australia men’s selection panel chairperson George Bailey has backed opener David Warner to play the third Test against Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), a match that the opener intends to end his long format career with but maintained that performance will be a key factor in selection for all players.
Warner has been named in the 14-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan, starting on December 14. The veteran opener this year expressed his desire to retire from the long format after the final Test at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the home stadium of his first-class team New South Wales.
“We still think he’s in our best eleven players to win the first Test,” said Warner to reporters.
“I think Test cricket, in terms of the way that the World Test Championship points are set up, each Test is critical. There are points on the line for every game. So our focus is very much on picking the 11 that we think can do the job and obviously, there are roles within that for each individual and how that actually structures up the team as a whole; and we think David is the right person for that for this Test,” he added.
Bailey said that Warner’s decision to end his Test career in Sydney is respected, but the Australian team is particular about performance and how the player fits in a team and it would not change.
“Clearly Dave would like to get through the series and finish up in Sydney, and we fully respect that. We have been pretty consistent around the fact that with any player, it is how they perform as an individual and how that performance actually fits into the function of the team, and that would not change,” he said.
“We get the advantage of having a home Test series and being able to name a squad Test by Test. And not specific to Dave, but I think all players, it is about performing and how that fits into the team that will determine the make-up of a side in any given Test,” concluded Bailey.
Bailey’s comments come after former Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson launched an attack on Warner for continuing to play the longer format despite declining form and accused him of not owning up to his role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.
Writing for The West Australian, Johnson said that Warner’s current form and his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal, also known as the ‘Sandpaper Gate’ do not justify him getting a “hero’s send-off”.
“It is been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal. Now the way he is going out is underpinned by more of the same arrogance and disrespect to our country,” Johnson wrote for The West Australian, as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“As we prepare for David Warner’s farewell series, can somebody please tell me why? Why does a struggling Test opener get to nominate his own retirement date? And why does a player at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Australian cricket history warrant a hero’s send-off?.”
“Warner certainly is not Australia’s Test captain and never deserved to be for that matter. He ends his career under a lifetime leadership ban,” added Johnson.

Johnson said that though the opener has a “decent overall record” and is considered by many as one of the greatest openers in Australian cricket, his past three years with the bat have been ordinary in Tests, “with a batting average closer to what a tail-ender would be happy with.”
In the 2018 Ball-Tampering Scandal, also known as the ‘Sandpaper Gate’, then-Australian captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batter Cameron Bancroft received heavy sanctions from Cricket Australia for their involvement in ball-tampering during the series against South Africa.
In 20 Tests from 2022-23, Warner has scored 936 runs in 36 innings at an average of 26.74, with just one century and four half-centuries. This is in stark contrast with opener’s white-ball form, which has been consistent in 2020s as well.
Johnson questioned if Warner’s involvement in the Sandpapergate warranted him a swansong and a right to decide his retirement as if he were bigger than the Australian cricket team and the game as a whole.

“It is 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’,” said Warner.
“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?” he added.
Johnson also raised questions against Bailey, who is currently the chair of the men’s selection panel, asking him why Warner was selected.
“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,” he wrote.
“When then-captain Tim Paine’s career was ending over the sexting controversy, chairman of selectors George Bailey said he did not want to be part of deciding Paine’s fate because the pair were close friends.”
“Bailey said he would leave it to then coach Justin Langer and fellow selector Tony Dodemaide to work it out,” concluded Johnson.
Johnson said that the handling of Warner in recent years, who was Bailey’s teammate across all formats, raises the question of whether Bailey was too quickly “out of playing and into the job” and close to some of 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,” said the former pacer.
On accusations of him being close to the team, Bailey replied, “My only observation would be 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 is more beneficial–I would be all ears.” (ANI)

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