Sporting Declaration: How to sort out the Johnson-Warner feud

By Robert Dillon
December 10 2023 - 9:00am
Mitchell Johnson and David Warner in happier times. Picture Getty Images
Mitchell Johnson and David Warner in happier times. Picture Getty Images

I RECKON there is only one way to sort out the feud that has every cricket fan talking.

David Warner can pad up, Mitchell Johnson can mark out his long run, and they can go hell for leather in the nets. And may the best man win.

That's the logical outcome after Johnson's much-publicised newspaper column this week, in which he delivered a heat-seeking missile to rival any of the 150kmh bouncers with which he once terrorised Pommy batsmen, back in the day.

In case you missed it, Johnson queried 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 ... does this really warrant a swansong, a last hurrah against Pakistan that was forecast a year in advance?"

Them there is fighting words, if ever I've heard them. And while Johnson apparently dabbles a bit in karate, and Warner has been known to go the biff when push comes to shove, we don't need this to get any uglier than it already seems.

So a net session it is.

I know what you're thinking. Big Mitch is 42 now and hasn't played for Australia for eight years, so is this really a fair contest?

True, he's probably not going to be at his peak, but he's only a few years older than Stuart Broad, who by the end of his career could well have skittled Warner with a grapefruit without breaking sweat.

Nonetheless, I'd suggest a few concessions will need to be made to ensure a level playing field.

For starters, it's probably only fair that Johnno gets to choose the ball.

If he's got any sense, he'll be choosing a red one, given that little Davey has scored only one century in his past 25 Tests.

I wouldn't be opting for a white one.

We all know Warner can whack that around in his canary-yellow pyjamas, when there are restrictions on overs, short-pitched balls and field settings.

And I'd be steering clear of a pink ball, given that they're primarily used at the Adelaide Oval, the most docile track in the history of the world, where Warner has scored four of his 25 Test tons.

So a red ball it is, and there's a fair chance Johnson will be bypassing the traditional Australian Kookaburra variety in favour of the Duke's pill they use in England, where Warner remains century-less in 18 Tests.

And if it doesn't happen to swing, maybe Mitch can keep a piece of wet-and-dry in his pocket, just in case. That seems only fair.

Then we get to the pitch.

It'll have to be one of those drop-in jobs, and surely Mitchell will give the flat, batsmen-friendly Aussie tracks a wide berth, when you consider Warner has scored 19 of his Test tons on home soil. Let's say we import a deck from England or India, the two countries where it is probably toughest to bat, and where Warner is yet to reach triple figures in more than 50 attempts.

Next we'll need an umpire.

I'm suggesting Joel Wilson, from the West Indies. That's bound to rattle Warner.

It was only a couple of months ago he gave the left-hander out lbw - a decision vindicated on review by the ball-tracking technology - and disgruntled Davey was still grumbling about it a few days later.

Meanwhile, we'll probably need a selector to cast an eye over Warner's form.

I was going to suggest George Bailey, but surely he's travelling the country, casting his eye over the talent in the Sheffield Shield and Big Bash League.

But wait ... I hear George is on tour with the Australian team he's already helped pick, so hopefully he's available.

I guess that depends on whether he's on the golf course with the rest of the players.

Last but by no means least, I reckon we need a couple of fielders, just to get in Warner's ear and under his skin.

How about Quinton de Kock at wicket-keeper and Joe Root at first slip?

Righto, left-arm over the wicket, let's play. It's time to settle this once and for all and find out how good David Warner really is.

Australia has beaten previously undefeated tournament favourites India by six wickets to win the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 and extend their staggering record of title wins. Vision courtesy: Nine Network/Unique Kabaddi Media Global

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