The manager of veteran Aussie cricket star David Warner has hit back at Mitchell Johnson's extraordinary swipe at the 37-year-old, amid claims he does not deserve a hero's farewell in Sydney in January. Warner's former teammate raised eyebrows over the weekend after writing a scathing column in the West Australian where he labelled the opener 'arrogant' and 'disrespectful' over plans to bow out of Test cricket after the third Test against Pakistan at his SCG home ground.
Johnson claimed Warner had not properly owned his role in the ball-tampering saga that saw him banned for 12 months and thus shouldn't be able to dictate how he retires from Test cricket. Warner's spot at the top of Aussie batting order has come under fire after a lean couple of years that's seen him average less than 30 runs and only notch one century - an incredible double ton against South Africa.
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Marcus Harris, Matthew Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft are widely considered to be the three men vying for Warner's opening spot. But his manager James Erskine says none of them has done enough with the bat to force selectors into replacing Warner.
“If there was somebody sitting on the sidelines who was an absolute automatic to come in, bring 'em on,” Erskine told SEN Sportsday. “I’m guessing but I won’t be far out, I think between Marcus Harris, Renshaw and Bancroft, they’ve probably got a total of 1500 (Test) runs between them.
“My black Labrador could work out who are the contenders to basically take the spot... collectively they have (Test) averages in the mid-20s. David Warner has played 109 Test matches and has an average of 44.4, (he has) over 8500 Test runs."
David Warner's family central to his retirement
Erskine said one thing lost in the debate around Warner is the fact the veteran batter never meant to dictate the terms of his Test farewell, merely that he wanted to retire after his home Test in Sydney. The batter's manager said the decision is also about spending more time with his family, having spent most of the last year away from his wife Candice and three young daughters.
“It’s not a swansong he’s just saying, ‘I’ve got to put a date on when I’m going to retire’,” Erskine added. “The real reason to be honest is the amount of time he spends away from his family, he’s spent six of the last seven months away from his family.
David Warner's contribution to Aussie cricket hailed
Usman Khawaja has also thrown his support behind Warner and says his Test opening partner has paid his dues over the 'Sandpapergate' scandal, as well as Steve Smith, who was Australia captain at the time. Khawaja said he "strongly disagreed" with Johnson's view that Warner doesn't deserve a hero's send-off in Sydney, insisting he should be afforded a second chance and pointing to the batter's huge contribution to the sport over many years.
"Davey Warner and Steve Smith are heroes in my mind," Khawaja said. "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. So for (Johnson) to imply that Dave Warner or anyone else involved in Sandpaper-(gate) is not a hero I strongly disagree with because I believe they have paid their dues."
Khawaja also hit out at Johnson's swipe at George Bailey after claiming Australia's chairman of selectors was too close to Warner to make a tough call on his axing, having played together in three formats for Australia. Khawaja described the criticism as "harsh" and said victories for Australia in the 2021-22 Ashes series and again this year, plus World Cup triumphs in T20 (2021) and ODI cricket (2023), as well as a World Test Championship crown proves that the Aussies are thriving during Bailey's tenure.
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