Lehmann tried to keep Johnson for ODIs
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has demonstrated his concerns about a diminishing supply of high-class pace bowling resources by revealing he tried to convince Mitchell Johnson to remain a limited-overs player after his retirement from Test matches in Perth.
Johnson told Lehmann and the captain Steven Smith of his intention to leave international cricket on the third evening of the WACA Test against New Zealand. While they accepted their spearhead's decision, Lehmann has said he floated the possibility of Johnson sticking around as an ODI or Twenty20 bowler for Australia but was rebuffed.
"His mind was made up as soon as he spoke to Steven and myself after day three. He'd been thinking about it for a while, been talking about it in the media," Lehmann told the Adelaide radio station 5AA. "We spoke to him about maybe playing the one-dayers, we think that was a really good option for us to have that experience there. But he's not into it, he's not into the training anymore, he's had enough and he just wants to sit at home and watch us play."
While no longer eager to pursue the rigorous training and travel regimen of an international fast bowler, Johnson is set to keep playing in the game's shortest format for some time yet. The Perth Scorchers have been in discussions with his manager Sam Halvorsen about a potential Big Bash League deal, and the WACA chief executive Christian Matthews has said that "we've had indications he's keen to play for us".
Lehmann, meanwhile, has reflected on a shrinking supply of pacemen, with the loss of Johnson and Ryan Harris thrusting the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson very much to the forefront of the national team's plans across all forms of the game. The selection of Andrew Fekete, who has since been dropped by Tasmania, for the postponed tour of Bangladesh demonstrated a wide open field beneath this quartet.
"We've got a few injuries at the moment, with Harris and Johnson retiring and then you chuck in Pat Cummins injured at the moment," Lehmann said. "We've got some depth in young kids, but these four [Starc, Hazlewood, Siddle, Pattinson] are prime bowlers for us and we've got to keep them on the park."
Hazlewood, Siddle and Pattinson are seemingly duelling for two bowling spots alongside Starc. Lehmann said that Hazlewood had not performed to his satisfaction in the first two Tests of the New Zealand series, but he was hesitant about being overly critical of a young bowler still learning his game and duly inconsistent.
"He got better and better in Perth, he certainly bowled well with the new ball in the second innings, better than he probably has all series, so he looks like he's running into a little bit of form there," Lehmann said. "But it's tough to spot because he's a young kid, he bowls well in patches and we probably should have held a few catches to help our bowlers out a little bit as well. He'd like more wickets, as we would."
Bowlers on both sides have been neutered by flat pitches in Brisbane and Perth, but Lehmann stressed that he expected better of Australia's pacemen in particular. While the likes of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have flourished so far, Lehmann contended that this was largely as a result of their not being put under enough pressure by consistent bowling to the fields set by Smith.
"I certainly don't think we've bowled as well as we should have," he said. "I said that after the first Test and then the second Test. We're certainly batting well enough at the moment, so if we get the bowling right, and get the ball in the right areas and put a bit more pressure on them, not too many free balls, that might be a different story."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig