Mitchell Johnson lashes out at David Warner, asks if he ‘warrants a hero’s send-off’


As anticipated, Warner was named in Australia’s 14-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan by Australia’s selectors on Sunday with Bailey, the chairman of selectors, stating he was in Australia’s best XI.

In his Sunday column in The West Australian, Johnson queried both Warner’s public desire for a Test farewell and why it was being accommodated by the selectors despite his form over the last two years, given he has averaged 26.74 in his last 36 Test innings. Johnson also accused him of not fully owning his part in the ball-tampering scandal of 2018.

“It’s been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal,” Johnson wrote. “Now the way he is going out is underpinned by more of the same arrogance and disrespect to our country.

“As we prepare for David Warner’s farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?

“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?

“Warner certainly isn’t Australia’s Test captain and never deserved to be for that matter. In fact, he ends his career under a lifetime leadership ban.

“Yes, he has a decent overall record and some say is one of our greatest opening bats. But his past three years in Test cricket have been ordinary, with a batting average closer to what a tailender would be happy with.

“It’s 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’.

“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?

“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.”

Johnson was Warner’s team-mate from 2009 to 2015 when Johnson retired and he, Warner and Bailey were all team-mates in Australia’s 5-0 Ashes series whitewash in 2013-14. All three were part of the 2015 ODI World Cup win, although Bailey was not in the final XI despite captaining the team in the lead-up to the tournament.

Johnson then took aim at Bailey for how Warner has been handled by the selection panel and accused him of being too close to the players, stating that Warner’s situation was akin to the conflict-of-interest Bailey had when Tim Paine’s career ended.

“When then-captain Tim Paine’s career was ending over the sexting controversy, chairman of selectors George Bailey said he didn’t want to be part of deciding Paine’s fate because the pair were close friends,” Johnson wrote.

“Bailey said he would leave it to then coach Justin Langer and fellow selector Tony Dodemaide to work it out.

“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.

“I also wonder what the role of the head selector is these days. It seems to have moved to be a part of the inner sanctum rather than standing aside from it. There’s now throw downs for the players, golfing together and celebrating wins to all hours.”

Bailey was asked to respond to Johnson’s article during a pre-scheduled media conference on Sunday but he played a straight bat.

“I’ve been sent little snippets of it,” Bailey said. “I hope he’s okay.”

It is not the first time Johnson has used his newspaper column to fire shots at the current Australian team. In 2022, he wrote that Pat Cummins was “gutless” for not endorsing Justin Langer to remain as coach and that Cummins had failed his first big test as captain “pretty miserably”. That article caused a strong private and public response from Australia’s fast bowlers against their former teammate.

Bailey has redefined the role of chairman of Australia’s selectors since taking over the post vacated by Trevor Hohns in 2021. Previous chairmans did not embed themselves closely with the team on tour but both Bailey and fellow selector Tony Dodemaide have done so.

Bailey has been widely praised within Australia cricket by players and coaches across all levels for his communication and messaging. He has been involved in the selection of teams that have won a T20 World Cup, a World Test Championship and an ODI World Cup in the space of two years.

He did not want to go into detail on his philosophy on being a chairman of selectors but simply asked a question back as to why being distant from the team would make him a better selector.

“To be honest, I don’t think now is probably the appropriate time to go into it,” Bailey said. “My only question would be, or observation will 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’s more beneficial, I’d be all ears.”

As far as Johnson’s specific charge on Warner’s selection, Bailey was unequivocal in his belief that Warner was the best option to open alongside Usman Khawaja.

“Ultimately, we still think he’s in our best 11 players to win the first Test,” Bailey said. “I think Test cricket, in terms of the way that the World Test Championship points is set up, each Test is critical.

“There’s points on the line for each and every game. So our focus is very much on picking the 11 that we think can do the job and obviously there’s 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.”

Bailey also warned that replacing Warner at the top of the order in Australia’s Test side was similar to Australia’s search for a spin replacement for Shane Warne between 2007 and 2011, given Warner’s unique ability to put opposition attacks under pressure.

“That ability to put the opposition under pressure is pretty special, and not to be taken lightly,” Bailey said. “Whenever you’ve had someone who’s had that longevity and been so dominating in a role, [it’s important] just to temper the expectations of whoever is going to be the replacement there.

“I think back to Warnie finishing up as a spinner and how many spinners got brought in and shuffled out in the quest to almost try and replicate Warnie. And I don’t think you ever try and replicate someone who’s played a role for as long as someone has done it as well as they have and I’d put David in that category, the way he’s opened the batting for Australia for such a long period of time. So that’s something that we’re certainly conscious of making sure that that fit post-David is the right one.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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