‘He always put himself second’: Usman Khawaja backs David Warner’s role at Australia | cricket

Usman Khawaja claims David Warner sacrificed his own image for the sake of the Australian cricket team and the combative opening batsman never wanted to be the attack dog he was meant to be.

But Khawaja has taken to heart that as Warner steps onto a Test field for the last time, his childhood friend is now playing the game he loves the way he always wanted to.

Warner was out for 34 in the first innings of his final Test on Thursday and was caught at slip after rounding a ball that caught and bounced off spinning all-rounder Agha Salman.

“He batted brilliantly in this series,” Khawaja said.

“He just took a great hit today, which you have to deal with sometimes.”

Warner left the pitch berating himself for failing to capitalize on a good SCG wicket, but received a standing ovation from his home crowd.

The warm reception was a far cry from previous public assessments of Warner, who was already a polarizing figure before his involvement in the 2018 ball-tampering saga.

Warner earned the nickname “Bullet” for his relentlessness in attacking opposing teams both with the bat and verbally.

His approach to the game embodied the “win at all costs” mentality uncovered in the Australian cricket team by the post-Sandpapergate cultural report.

But Khawaja, who has known Warner since the two were teenagers, said his opening partner never wanted to be cast as the pantomime villain.

“There he was in people’s eyes for a long time, doing things,” Khawaja said of his friend’s career.

“But that wasn’t always Davey.

“He was also told at certain points by the coaching staff and people to play a certain way.

“He is a real team player. If you ask him to do something, he will do it for the team. That’s the frustrating thing about people coming at him.

“He always put himself second and the team first.”

Warner shied away from his nickname “Bull” after returning from the one-year ban he received following the ball-tampering saga.

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Since then, Khawaja has been heartened to see his friend’s true colors shine through.

“Since his return you’ve seen a completely different Davey Warner,” he said.

“He scored runs, he did it his own way, he played the game really well.

“You can tell he smiles a lot on the pitch, he does it the Davey Warner way, which was really good to see in the latter part of his career.”

That’s one of the reasons why Khawaja became emotional while discussing his friend’s impending retirement and witnessing the reception he received as the couple shared the fold for possibly the last time.

“It’s really nice to see that people care about him because I think he deserves it, I really do,” he said.

“After that we won’t be allowed to play anymore. It will definitely be sad. Even when I talk about it now, I think about the journey we’ve been on and it gets pretty emotional.

“But it’s not the end of our lives or hopefully not.

“Hopefully we spent a lot more time together, on the golf course, commentating or whatever. I’m sure we’ll have some good times ahead.”

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