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    In a scathing critique, former Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson targeted his former teammates David Warner and George Bailey, raising questions about the rationale behind affording Warner a Test farewell, given his struggles in red-ball cricket and also accused Warner of failing to acknowledge his role in the ball-tampering scandal, widely known as ‘Sandpaper Gate.’
    In an op-ed for ‘The West Australian’, Johnson argued that Warner’s current form and his association with the ball-tampering controversy fall short of warranting a “hero’s send-off.” Despite his recent challenges, Warner has secured a spot in the 14-man squad for the upcoming first Test against Pakistan, scheduled to commence on December 14.Earlier this year, the seasoned opener expressed his intention to retire from the longer format after the final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
    “It has 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,” Johnson wrote for The West Australian, as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
    “As we prepare for David Warner’s farewell series, can somebody please tell me why? Why does a struggling Test opener get to nominate his own retirement date? And why does a player at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Australian cricket history warrant a hero’s send-off?”
    “Warner certainly is not Australia‘s Test captain and never deserved to be for that matter. He ends his career under a lifetime leadership ban,” added Johnson.
    Johnson acknowledged that despite being widely regarded as one of the premier openers in Australian cricket with a “decent overall record,” the batsman’s performance over the last three years in Test matches has been rather unremarkable, “with a batting average closer to what a tail-ender would be happy with.”
    During the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, famously dubbed ‘sandpaper-gate,’ the then-Australian captain Steve Smith, vice-captain Warner and batter Cameron Bancroft faced severe sanctions from Cricket Australia due to their participation in ball-tampering activities during the series against South Africa.
    In the span of 20 Tests from 2022-23, Warner’s performance has been lackluster, amassing 936 runs in 36 innings with an average of 26.74, including just one century and four half-centuries. This stands in stark contrast to his consistent white-ball form.
    Mitchell Johnson raised questions about whether Warner’s involvement in the ‘sandpaper-gate’ warranted a farewell and the privilege to dictate his retirement, suggesting a potential perception that places him above the Australian cricket team and the game itself.
    “It is 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’,” said Warner.
    “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?” he added.
    Johnson also targeted Bailey, the current chair of the men’s selection panel, questioning the rationale behind Warner’s inclusion in the 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,” he wrote.
    “When then-captain Tim Paine’s career was ending over the sexting controversy, chairman of selectors Bailey said he did not want to be part of deciding Paine’s fate because the pair were close friends.”
    “Bailey said he would leave it to then coach Justin Langer and fellow selector Tony Dodemaide to work it out,” concluded Johnson.
    Johnson expressed concerns about the management of Warner in the recent years, noting that Bailey, who was his teammate across all formats, might have transitioned too swiftly “from playing to the job” and developed close ties with some of the players.
    “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,” said the former pacer.
    To this, Bailey responded: “My only observation would 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 is more beneficial – I would be all ears.”





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