Usman Khawaja has leapt to the defence of fellow Australian batsman David Warner, saying he has “paid his dues” over the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.
Warner came under fire from former Aussie fast bowler Mitchell Johnson after being named in Australia’s 14-man squad for the three-match home Test series against Pakistan.
The first game begins in Perth on Thursday, December 14.
And 37-year-old opener Warner has spoken of his dream of bowing out of his Test career in the final game at Sydney Cricket Ground, his home stadium, in January.
But, writing in a newspaper column on Sunday, Johnson said Warner did not merit his place in the side on form and should not be given a hero’s send-off because of the ball-tampering scandal.
Warner and former captain Steve Smith were handed 12-month bans after the 'sandpaper-gate' controversy during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018.
Johnson, who took 313 Test wickets in an eight-year career that ended in 2015, said of his former teammate: “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?
“It's been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal.”
But current teammate Khawaja hit back at the comments yesterday, saying: “Warner and Smith are heroes in my mind.
“They missed a year of cricket through dark times. No one’s perfect. Mitchell Johnson’s not perfect.
“What they have done for the game – how they have grown the game – far outweighs anything else they have done.
“To say Dave 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.”