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Talking Points: Johnson tightlipped on Warner ton, Green reveals kidney battle, Khawaja delivers message to ICC

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14th December, 2023
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Mitchell Johnson looked decidedly uncomfortable in the Triple M commentary box when questioned about his recent controversial comments about David Warner while the veteran opener surged towards his ton at Optus Stadium.

Fellow commentator James Brayshaw ribbed Johnson, much to the delight of former Test skipper Mark Taylor in the booth, when he came on for a stint behind the microphone, asking him sarcastically if there’s been anything going on lately.

Johnson looked ill at ease with the banter, offering up short replies like “not really” and “all good here in the West” before deadpanning “the sun’s been shining”.

Warner made a shushing motion to the media centre where Johnson was situated when he reached his hundred but later denied it was directed at his teammate turned adversary.

Johnson steered clear of commenting too much on Warner’s innings after recently questioning whether he deserved a hero’s send-off and claiming that his form did not warrant selection after scoring just one Test century since 2020.

He was slightly more verbose on his own podcast prior to the Test by saying “I have given my opinion. I have said what I have said and we move on”.

They were teammates in all three formats early in Warner’s career and won the 2015 ODI World Cup together but Johnson admitted after his cutting column that he was no longer on speaking terms with the NSW left-hander.

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Warner’s wife, Candice, was quick to take to social media after he reached his hundred with a shush emoji to thumb her nose at the veteran left-hander’s critics. 

She had a public stoush with Johnson earlier this year and the outspoken former fast bowler provided the main storyline heading into this Test with a recent column in which he also lambasted Warner for his role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

Green reveals kidney battle

Australian all-rounder Cameron Green has revealed his ongoing battle with a chronic kidney condition which at one point raised fears he would not live past his 12th birthday.

The 24-year-old Western Australian, who missed out on selection for the First Test against Pakistan after losing his spot to Mitchell Marsh during the Ashes, was diagnosed with stage two kidney disease before he was born.

“It just got picked up during ultrasounds,” Green told Channel 7 when asked about the condition. “Chronic kidney disease is basically a progressive disease of your kidney’s health function. 

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“Unfortunately, mine doesn’t filter the blood as well as other kidneys. They are about six per cent at the moment, which is stage two.

“With chronic kidney disease there are five stages, with stage one being the least severe and stage five being transplant or dialysis, and fortunately enough I am stage two. But if you don’t look after them enough, it easily goes back down because kidneys can’t get better. It’s irreversible.”

He is not able to filter blood as well as he should due to the disease and he has not even told his national teammates of his condition until recently when he had cramping issues related to his kidney problem.

“Growing up, I can remember being in the hospital every week getting ultrasounds on my kidneys, just checking the size and the health of them. My parents got told when I was younger I could be very small, which is pretty funny to look back on now,” said Green, who grew to a tick under two metres.

“I consider myself very lucky that I am not affected as much physically by chronic kidney disease as other people that have the same thing.”

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PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 14: Usman Khawaja of Australia bats during day one of the Men's First Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Usman Khawaja bats during the First Test. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Khawaja uses armband to send message

Usman Khawaja opted against writing on his shoes to get his message out but he sported a black armband when the First Test got underway on Thursday as a way of highlighting his “humanitarian message” of peace.

Khawaja was interviewed prior to opening the batting for Australia after Pat Cummins won the toss and said he was disappointed the ICC had prevented him from displaying handwritten slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” on his shoes.

The left-handed batter is trying to spread awareness about the thousands of innocent lives lost in the latest Gaza dispute between Palestine and Israel. He had written his messages on his shoes at Australia’s training session earlier this week.

“I don’t really see the controversy of ‘all lives matter’ and saying ‘freedom is a human right’. I don’t see where it becomes political,” he said on Fox Cricket.

“I find it hard to accept where people find what I said distasteful. No one is ever going to agree with everyone and I accept that. It makes me uneasy that people find those words uneasy.

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“It has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster the last couple of months. It is what it is. I’ll always stand up for what I believe in, even if people don’t agree with me or they don’t like me saying it. 

“I want to look back on my career and say I stood up for my values, I respect what I did on the field but I also respect myself for what I did off the field. That to me at some level, probably at the most level, means more.”

In 2003, Zimbabwe duo Andy Flower and Henry Olonga were found to have breached the ICC guidelines but were not sanctioned when they wore black armbands to “mourn the democracy” of their nation a the ODI World Cup.

When Khawaja was asked about the ICC response being delivered to him to say he couldn’t go through with his plans, he said it was frustrating.

“I just think that so much has happened in the past that sets a precedent,” Khawaja said.

“I mean full support of Black Lives Matter. There’s plenty of guys who have written on their shoes before.

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Usman Khawaja looks on while waiting to bat during an Australian nets session at the WACA on December 11, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Usman Khawaja looks on while waiting to bat during an Australian nets session. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“Other guys have religious things on their equipment and under the ICC guidelines, that’s not technically allowed, but the ICC never says anything on that.

“So I find it a little disappointing that they came down hard on me and they don’t always come down hard on everyone else. That was probably the most frustrating part.

“But at the end of the day I can’t really do anything about it. All I can do is fight it, appropriately, and however I can. I’m not going to get emotional because there’s already enough emotion in this. 

“I’m not doing this for any other reason than to spread the word and to speak for those who don’t have a voice. I always came in with good intentions and I’ll leave with good intentions.”

Cricket Australia had issued a statement on Wednesday to say “we support the right of our players to express personal opinions but the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold.”

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Khawaja posted a heartfelt video message on social media later on Wednesday to say he would continue the fight to express himself freely.

The pre-game drama didn’t appear to be a distraction for Khawaja and opening partner David Warner when the match got underway as they raced to a 50-run partnership inside the first 10 overs.

They then brought up a century stand well before lunch in the 20th over with Warner striking at better than a run a ball as he brought up his half-century.

Khawaja eventually fell for 41 to Shaheen Shah Afridi but Warner powered onto a century to end a near 12-month drought and ensure he will get his SCG farewell to Test cricket in the third match of this series.

with AAP

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