Aus vs Pak – Boxing Day Test at MCG – David Warner picks his replacement – ‘Marcus Harris has always been next in line’


David Warner has given a strong endorsement for Marcus Harris to replace him as Australia’s next Test opener after a day where he and Usman Khawaja showed the value of having specialists do the job, sharing a 90-run opening stand in difficult conditions against Pakistan to help Australia weather the storm.

Warner and Khawaja batted almost through the opening session after they were sent in by Pakistan captain Shan Masood on an MCG pitch that had plenty of live green grass. The partnership ensured Australia did not find themselves in a vulnerable position as they reached stumps at 187 for 3 after 24 overs were lost to rain.

The debate on who should replace Warner after he retires from the format – at the end of the series – has bubbled away as a talking point, with Michael Hussey adding to the debate by stating he would prefer to see a specialist do the job.

Warner had been asked back in July about who should replace him. He spoke glowingly about Matt Renshaw’s credentials before mentioning that Harris had the “front-row seat” as the touring reserve in the Ashes.

But after grinding out an 83-ball 38 in a vital 90-run opening stand, that included being dropped on 2 by Abdullah Shafique off Shaheen Shah Afridi, Warner endorsed Harris as the man to take his place after he retires in Sydney.

“It’s a tough one,” Warner said. “It’s obviously up to the selectors. But from my position, I feel like the person who’s worked their backside off and has been there for a while in the background, I think Harry’s been that person. He’s toured, he’s going to have that chance. He scored a hundred the other day [for a Victoria XI vs the Pakistanis].

“He missed out in a couple other games but he’s always been that person who was next in line. If the selectors show faith in him, then I’m sure he’ll come out and play the way he does. It’s not too dissimilar to me. If he sees it in his areas, he goes for it, plays his shots, and I think he would fit well.”

“He’s put his statement out there that he believes in, that all lives are equal. He wouldn’t have made that statement if he didn’t feel like he could take the criticism. He knew that he would get criticism”

David Warner on Usman Khawaja

Warner, 37, does not think Australia will need a second opener any time soon despite his current partner Khawaja being the same age as him. He was full of praise for Khawaja’s performance on the opening day. Khawaja made just 42 but looked the more comfortable of the pair and hardly put a foot wrong in the tricky morning conditions until he tried to late cut a ball from Hasan Ali that was a fraction too close and slightly too full and ended up edging it to second slip.

Warner believes Khawaja could continue for as long as he wants to, given the form he is in and his importance to the team.

“I think because Uzzy’s spoken about the fact that he was resigned to the fact that he was done a few years back and now he’s just playing like every game is his last,” Warner said. “He’s going to keep playing as long as he can and it’s a true testament to the way his mindset has been. His last 12 months have been absolutely phenomenal and he can play as long as he wants to and feels comfortable.”

Warner: ‘Khawaja’s got a lot of respect from a lot of people’

Khawaja wore the names of his two daughters on his shoes, having taped over the words that he had on them at training in Perth. Warner, who has also had the names of his wife and daughters written on his shoes throughout the latter half of his career, believes Khawaja has not been distracted at all by the off-field drama in the lead-up to the Boxing Day Test surrounding the ICC’s rejection of his application to display a dove and olive branch on his shoes and bat to raise awareness around the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Writing your kids’ names, for me it’s sentimental, they’re always with me and that’s something that he decided to do,” Warner said. “But he’s been fine. He’s put his statement out there that he believes in, that all lives are equal.

“He wouldn’t have made that statement if he didn’t feel like he could take the criticism. He knew that he would get criticism. And, at the end of the day, he’s a big boy and I just said to him, ‘you just got to keep believing what you believe in and move on and get on with cricket’. And he’s done that pretty well.”

Warner was full of praise for the stance his long-time friend had taken and the example that he sets in the community.

“He’s always been a leader around the group,” Warner said. “Even at New South Wales, when we were young, he’s always been that guy that’s always put his hand up to help. Especially with his community stuff. The work that goes on behind the scenes that he does for his community and his foundation is outstanding, and I think that’s the person that he is. He’s got a lot of respect from a lot of people.”

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo


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