Retired Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson has stated that his criticism of David Warner in his column this week was prompted by a personal message from the opener after a previous article he wrote earlier this year.
During his podcast, The Mitchell Johnson Cricket Show, Johnson discussed the motivation behind his article in the West Australian where he questioned Warner’s ongoing inclusion in Australia’s Test side. This piece stirred considerable debate within Australia, with opinions split regarding the nature of Johnson’s outspoken views.
“People have touched on that there seems to be a personal side to it which there is as well,” Johnson said. “But when I’ve written my articles I’ve always tried to do it in a way that I can back things up.
“From the message I got in April, I think it was around the time that Candace [Warner] had said her bit on the back page about there not being openers good enough to take the position. I responded to that and then I got a message from Dave which was quite personal. I tried to ring him to try and talk to him about it – when I finished playing I said if I’m in the media and writing things and saying things that you don’t like just come and speak to me. It was never a personal thing then until probably this point… Some of the stuff that was said, I won’t say it because I think that’s up to Dave if he wants to talk about it, but there was some stuff in there that was extremely disappointing and pretty bad to be honest.”
Johnson also explained why he chose to also criticise George Bailey, the chairman of selectors for Australia men, in his article.
“That was a bit of a driver and a bit with George as well,” said Johnson. “He sent me a message after the Lance Morris article I wrote [Johnson argued Morris should be rested during the Sheffield Shield earlier this year] and it was just a little bit condescending and when you receive it at all hours of the morning that’s pretty disappointing."
Bailey responded to Johnson’s column in a press conference this week ahead of Australia’s series against Pakistan, by saying “I hope he’s okay,” referring to Johnson. Speaking in 2020, Johnson revealed he had struggled with depression throughout his life. Johnson labelled Bailey’s suggestion that his article had been motivated by this “disgusting”.
“I’m okay, that’s another thing, to make sure everyone knows that I’m okay, I’m actually in a good head space. That’s another point which was really disappointing, to ask if I’m okay because I’ve had mental health issues, it’s pretty much downplaying my article and putting it on mental health which is quite disgusting I think. But I’m fine, I’m not angry, I’m not jealous, I’m just writing a piece I felt like I needed to write.
“It’s basically having a dig at someone’s mental health and that I must have something going on, a mental health issue that’s made me say what I’ve said. That’s not the truth that’s completely the opposite. I’m actually clear minded and it’s based on my interactions I’ve had with him in recent times. But it tries to downplay the questions that I’ve asked in that article and to also say that I’m not allowed to have an opinion. The Lance Morris article was based on my experience as well. I went through back fractures, I had four of them and I feel like I’ve got this position because of my experience… So it seems very childish from George to say what he said but also extremely condescending. There are a lot of words I could use.”
It must be noted that on Sunday, Johnson, who represented Australia in 256 international matches, questioned why is Warner being treated this well by the selectors despite being part of a ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
"It's been five years and David Warner has still never really owned the ball-tampering scandal," Johnson wrote. "Now the way he is going out is underpinned by more of the same arrogance and disrespect to our country.
"As we prepare for David Warner's farewell series, can somebody please tell me why?"
Warner has a 26.74 average in red-ball cricket over the last two years and struggled to score big during the Ashes 2023 as the left-handed batter could only amass 285 runs in 10 innings at an average of 28.50.
Johnson couldn't understand why a player who has been struggling badly in Test cricket announced his own retirement and is getting a hero's send-off.
"Why a struggling Test opener gets to nominate his 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?” he added.