ANI Photo | “Warner has paid his dues”: Usman Khawaja fires back at Mitchell Johnson’s criticism of David Warner

Australia opener Usman Khawaja has responded to Mitchell Johnson’s criticism of Test teammate David Warner, calling the veteran opener a “hero” who has paid his dues in the ‘Sandpaper Gate’ incident.
Former Australia pacer Johnson launched a scathing attack against his former teammates David Warner and George Bailey, questioning why Warner is getting a Test farewell despite his struggles in red-ball cricket and accusing him of not owning up to his role in the 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”.
Khawaja stated that he “strongly disagreed” with Johnson’s statement, saying that the opener and former skipper Steve Smith, who was also banned for a year, had paid the price for their blunders. 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 the opener’s white-ball form, which has been consistent in the 2020s as well.
“Davey Warner and Steve Smith are heroes in my mind. 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,” Khawaja was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
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.
“So for [Johnson] to imply that Dave Warner or anyone else involved in [the] Sandpaper [incident] is not a hero, I strongly disagree with that because I believe they have paid their dues,” he added.
Khawaja also stated that he disagreed with Johnson’s assertion that head of selectors George Bailey was too close to Warner and the other players.
He described Bailey as a “breath of fresh air” in the role. Under Bailey’s leadership, Australia won the Ashes in 2021-22 and retained them in 2023, as well as the 2021 T20 World Cup, this year’s World Test Championship, and the ODI World Cup.
“I’m not sure you can argue with that. [The criticism] is harsh,” Khawaja said.
Australia will face Pakistan in a three-match Test series, with the first game starting on December 14. (ANI)

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