Johnson to really step up this summer
Mitchell Johnson (AAP)
”He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is …”. This chant has not only echoed in Johnson’s ears, but every English cricket ground since last the Ashes series.
Although harsh, it is somewhat true. Yet credibly, Johnson remains upbeat about his recent comeback from an eight month layoff due to a plaguing toe injury.
He laughs off the boisterous jibes to which he undoubtedly now knows all the words too, taking it as a compliment, “I think they wouldn’t put so much crap on me if they weren’t threatened,” he said.
Most would have supported Johnson’s admission that he thought about walking away from the game. Not me. Despite being the most frustrating cricketer on the planet, I believe Johnson will step up and spearhead our exciting, yet inexperienced pace attack for the next five years at least.
It is often those with the most potential who fall the hardest. Mitch learned this the hard way.
He announced himself on the South African tour of 2008, with few able to forget his unplayable performance of 8/61 in 2008 against the Proteas. Yet a year later in England, he went missing and one became aware of his often volatile mental strength.
Not only did his once potent swing and accuracy desert him, but more importantly, his confidence was shot. The new ball taken away from him, his shoulders slumped and the golden boy of Australian cricket seemed a distant memory.
Despite a hopeful resurgence after his 6/38 in Perth in 2011, he has never really fulfilled his undoubted natural talent with both bat and ball.
Who the hell knows? A question often asked by those watching him as he sprints into his delivery stride. Mitch included. The Australian press have rallied for Johnson to be dropped for the majority of his career, and deservedly so.
However, few argue that he belongs on the international cricket stage. The question is whether he will ever use his natural talent to productive effect. I think he can.
We are blessed with an enormously talented young crop of quicks including James Pattinson, Patrick Cummins, Ben Cutting and Mitchell Starc, who will all be on the international scene for the next decade at least. But someone needs to lead them.
Someone needs to step up and spearhead this talented, yet inexperienced attack in both forms of the game. That someone is Mitchell Johnson. Australia need a fast lefty, one can actually scare batsman with pace.
I am as big of fan of Mitchell Starc as the next bloke, however as much as I want to, I can’t go past Johnson. We can’t forget that he is still the number one ranked Australian one day bowler with an average of 25.22.
As much as I wanted Mitch to come back on the international scene following his injury, I can’t disagree more about the way in which it happened.
He returned in the second ODI in the recent one day series in England, finishing with figures of 0-43 off 7 overs. Players need to go back to their respective states and earn a recall.
Fair enough for players who have earned their stripes, but over the last couple of seasons Johnson hasn’t gone close to proving himself at the top level. “He needs to get back on the paddock – Mitch just has to start playing cricket again, he’s been off for about eight months now,” Mickey Arthur said on his return.
Pardon my ignorance Mr Arthur, but shouldn’t he be getting said match practice in English County cricket like fellow discards Usman Khawaja and Phil Hughes, and not on the international scene!?
Despite this, I do think that the appointment of Mickey Arthur of Head Coach will act as a saving grace for Johnson, previously working with one another in the Western Australian system. Last week Arthur gave Johnson a well-deserved wake up call, describing his recent comeback performances in England as “submissive, bullied and lacking character.”
Johnson himself said the description was correct. He knows he needs to reignite his once burning fire in his belly to bowl aggressively. Over the last couple of months, he has worked closely with Dennis Lillee who has advised him to work on his skill rather than pace.
“I’ve had him doing endurance running and sprinting and have technically remodelled a few things,” Lillee said. Since his comeback, Johnson has been noticeably more upright at the popping crease, intrinsically tightening his technique that has often been characterised by error.
With sheer weight of overs bowled, Johnson will kill the empty, overused term of ‘x-factor’ (what does that even mean?), and become the reliable spearhead Australia needs.
I don’t care if I’m the only one that backs Mitchell Johnson. Watching him switched on with both bat and ball is one of the most genuinely pleasing sights one sees on the cricket field. He will reignite his career with a return to top from and successfully lead a young Australian pace attack into next year’s Ashes.