Former Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has launched a stinging criticism of David Warner, hitting out at his ex-team-mate’s continued inclusion in Test squads and questioning whether the opener is deserving of a “hero’s send-off” against Pakistan in January.
Warner was on Sunday named in Australia’s 14-player squad for the first Pakistan Test in Perth from December 14-18, having earlier this year stated his desire to bring the curtain down on his Test career on his home ground of Sydney at the third and final match of the series on January 3-7.
But Johnson has rounded on Warner, 37, and Australia’s chief selector George Bailey, another former team-mate.
Johnson cited Warner’s recent Test form and role in the 2018 ‘Sandpaper-gate’ ball-tampering scandal, from which Warner was banned from the elite game for one year and from leadership positions for life.
“As we prepare for David Warner’s farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?” Johnson wrote in a hard-hitting column for the 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?”
Johnson added: “It’s 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.”
Over the last two years Warner has managed to average fewer than 30 runs with only one century, but his contribution to Australia’s recent 50-over World Cup triumph in India, when he was their leading scorer with 535 runs, looks to have secured his place in the squad for at least the opening Test.
But taking aim at Bailey, Johnson wrote: “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.”
After announcing his squad for the opening Pakistan Test, Bailey refused to be drawn in detail on Johnson’s comments but stressed Warner’s ability meant he warranted his place in the squad.
“Ultimately we still think he’s in our best 11 players to win the first Test,” said Bailey.
While Warner’s call-up was always expected, debutant bowler Lance Morris’ inclusion for the opening Pakistan Test was a relative surprise. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon, meanwhile, has returned to the squad in place of Todd Murphy after the calf injury that curtailed his participation in Australian’s retention of The Ashes.
Australia squad for first Test against Pakistan: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Lance Morris