Usman Khawaja has fired back at Mitchell Johnson’s criticism of Test teammate David Warner, declaring his opening partner is “a hero” who has paid his dues for the Sandpaper-gate scandal.
Johnson, a retired fast bowler, stated that his former teammate Warner was not worthy of a farewell during the third Test of the summer series against Pakistan.
Johnson stated that Warner did not fully accept accountability for his involvement in the Sandpaper-gate scandal in South Africa back in 2018, resulting in a 12-month suspension.
He asked why a player involved in one of the most notorious scandals in Australian cricket history deserves a hero’s farewell.
Khawaja expressed his strong disagreement with Johnson’s column in the West Australian newspaper. He also stated that Warner and former captain Steve Smith, who were both suspended for a year, had faced consequences for their errors.
According to Khawaja, Davey Warner and Steve Smith are both considered heroes in my opinion.
The Australian cricket team faced difficult challenges and had to sit out a year, but they have made amends for their mistakes. No one is without flaws, including Mitchell Johnson, myself, Steve Smith, and David Warner.
The contributions made by [Johnson] to the game and its growth surpass any other actions they have taken. Therefore, I strongly disagree with [Johnson]’s suggestion that Dave Warner or any other individual involved in the Sandpaper-gate incident is not a hero, as I believe they have served their punishment.
Warner has not yet replied to the explosive comments, but his manager James Erskine has labeled Johnson as “ignorant”.
Erskine expressed his annoyance with backseat drivers, stating that they are unnecessary and bothersome, during an interview with SEN.
“I find Johnson’s comments to be inflammatory. Perhaps he should consider a different approach. If he truly believes only three people were involved in Sandpaper-gate, he might as well vacation on the moon. It’s all just a joke.”
Khawaja expressed disagreement with Johnson’s remarks regarding George Bailey, the chair of selectors, being too closely connected to Warner.
He stated that Bailey had brought a “refreshing change” to the position.
During Bailey’s tenure, Australia claimed victory in the 2021-22 Ashes and successfully defended their title in 2023. They also emerged as champions in the 2021 T20 World Cup, this year’s World Test Championship, and the ODI World Cup.
“I’m unsure if that can be disputed. The criticism is quite severe,” stated Khawaja.
During an episode of his podcast, the Mitchell Johnson Cricket Show, Johnson discussed his strained relationship with former teammate David Warner and fellow player George Bailey with broadcaster Bharat Sundaresan. However, he clarified that this was not the only reason he wrote the article.
Some individuals have mentioned that there is also a personal aspect to it, as stated by the 42-year-old.
“When writing my articles, I make sure to provide evidence to support my opinions. While I do express my own perspective, I acknowledge that it is just my personal viewpoint. This particular article was challenging to write because I anticipated it would attract some attention.”
Johnson stated that he had received positive feedback from Bailey following the release of an article discussing up-and-coming Western Australia bowler Lance Morris.
During a press conference held on Sunday, Bailey addressed Johnson’s most recent column and expressed concern, stating, “I have received small excerpts of it – I hope he is doing well.”
Johnson disagreed with what Bailey said.
“He stated, ‘I am well.’ I am not upset. I am not envious. I am simply composing a piece that I felt was necessary to write. George’s behavior appears quite immature and condescending.”