Australian opener David Warner hasn’t been promised a fairytale farewell to Test cricket at the SCG despite retaining his spot for the series opener against Pakistan in Perth.
Earlier this year, the veteran left-hander declared he wanted to finish his Test career in front of a home crowd in Sydney, bookmarking the New Year’s fixture against Pakistan as his Test cricket swan song.
The 37-year-old has been exceptional in Australia’s white-ball teams, scoring two centuries during the recent World Cup triumph in India, but his red-ball form has tapered off over the last couple of years.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has registered one century in 44 Test innings, averaging 28.90 with the bat during that period.
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On Sunday morning, Warner was named in Australia’s 14-player squad for the first Test against Pakistan at Perth Stadium, where he will open the batting alongside Usman Khawaja. However, chief selector George Bailey clarified that Warner wasn’t immune from facing the axe if his performance dwindled before the New Year’s Test.
“We still think he’s in our best 11 players to win the first Test,” Bailey told reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“We think David is the right person for this Test.
“Clearly Dave would like to get through the series and finish up in Sydney and we fully respect that.
“We’ve been pretty consistent around the fact that with any player, it’s how they perform as an individual, and how that performance actually fits into the function of the team, and that won’t change.
“We get the advantage of having a home Test series and being able to name a squad Test by Test. And not specific to Dave, but I think all players, it’s about performing and how that fits into the team that will determine the make-up of a side in any given Test.”
Bailey’s comments came after former teammate Mitchell Johnson penned a scathing column in The West Australian, arguing that Warner doesn’t deserve to play a farewell series due to his role in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal of 2018.
Johnson, who played 265 matches for Australia across all formats, also took aim at Bailey’s integrity and professionalism, questioning whether the national selector was too close with the playing group.
“I’ve been sent little snippets of it,” Bailey said of Johnson’s column.
“I hope he’s OK.
“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 their team and the coaching staff, how that’s more beneficial, I’d be all ears.”
Warner’s decision to publicly announce when he intended to hang up the boots raised eyebrows, with former Australian all-rounder Brendon Julian arguing he shouldn’t have shared that information with the media.
“I think David Warner’s put the pressure on the selectors,” Julian told Fox Cricket this week.
“I don’t think he needed to do that. I think they would have picked him anyway. There’s no one there that’s knocking the door down.
“I don’t necessarily think that everyone deserves the right to decide when they want to go out, unless they are scoring a lot of runs or taking a lot of wickets and they would be a regulation pick anyway.
“Warner has not shot the lights out in Test cricket in the last two seasons, so I think that’s why he basically said that, hoping that they would push him to the SCG.
“He’s still had a wonderful career, and I’d like him to finish on his own terms, whether that’s SCG or earlier.
“He’s been a great cricketer for Australia.”
Warner will finish his Test career as one of Australia’s modern greats – the New South Welshman is 178 runs away from leapfrogging Matthew Hayden to become the nation’s leading Test run-scorer among openers.
Bailey praised Warner’s knack for putting pressure back on the opposition early in an innings, stressing that Australian fans shouldn’t expect his eventual replacement to replicate his batting style.
“That ability to put the opposition under pressure is pretty special and not to be taken lightly,” Bailey continued.
“Whenever you’ve had someone who has that longevity and been so dominating in a role, it’s just tempering that expectation of whoever is going to be the replacement.
“I think back to (Shane Warne) 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 to replicate someone who’s played a role for as long as someone has and done it as well as someone has.
“I’d put David in that category, the way he’s opened the batting for Australia for such a long period of time.
“That’s something we’re certainly conscious of, making sure that fit post-David is the right one.”
The series opener between Australia and Pakistan gets underway at Perth Stadium on December 14, with the first ball scheduled for 1.20pm AEDT.
Originally published as George Bailey responds to Mitch Johnson’s scathing attack