Usman Khawaja goes in to bat for embattled Warner after stinging Johnson criticism – SUCH TV

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

Warner was named in a 14-man squad for the series-opener against Pakistan despite a poor run of red-ball form and has made no secret of his hopes to bow out of the longest format after the third Test at his home Sydney Cricket Ground.

The decision to keep faith with Warner provoked a strong response from Johnson, who 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.

“Can somebody please tell me why?” he wrote in The West Australian newspaper at the weekend, also bringing up Warner’s central role in the notorious “Sandpaper-gate” scandal.

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.

“Davey 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, I’m not perfect, Steven Smith isn’t perfect, David Warner isn’t perfect.

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

“So for [Johnson] to imply that Davey 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.”

The first Test against Pakistan in Perth starts on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then Sydney, beginning January 3.

Warner was in scintillating form at the recent 50-over World Cup, but he has scored just one Test century since early 2020 and averages only 28 since the 2019-2020 summer in Australia.

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