The Ashes 2009 July 24, 2009

McGrath wants Johnson to keep things simple

Cricinfo staff

Glenn McGrath, the former Australian fast bowler, has said that Mitchell Johnson's failure in the first two Ashes Tests was due to "mental issues rather than technical ones" and wants the bowler to keep things simple for the remainder of the series.

"A lot of people will be giving Mitch all kinds of technical advice, saying his bowling arm is too low when delivering the ball or his wrist position is wrong, but in my experience, these losses of form are nearly always mental issues, rather than technical ones," McGrath told The Australian.

"He had a bit of a lay-off before the Australians came over here, and you cannot always just pick up from where you left off."

Johnson came into the Ashes as Australia's spearhead but was inaccurate and expensive during the first two Tests and, although he picked up eight wickets, he was unable to build any sort of pressure on England's batsmen.

McGrath, however, felt that Johnson had not lost the skills that made him so successful in South Africa. "What I would say to Mitch is that he hasn't lost any of the ability that makes him one of the most talented all-round cricketers in the world," McGrath said. "Look at the ball he bowled to dismiss Matt Prior in England's first innings. It was almost perfect: his fingers were in the right position on the seam, and the swing he found was excellent.

"If Mitch can sort out the mental side of things, I'm convinced everything else would fall into place. Cricketers around the world would kill to have half of his potential."

Johnson is not bereft of advice in England. Brett Lee, the only Australian bowler with Test experience in England, has been talking to him about his form, as are the others. "Everyone's been chatting to him and offering their advice. I've been offering my advice," Lee, who missed the first two Tests because of injury, said. "Mitch is running ideas around. Everyone's in it together. He's obviously searching for a lot more wickets, but it's not a matter of everyone being panicked and stressed out, saying what's going on.

"The key word over here is patience," Lee said. "Playing in Australia and South Africa, it's more conducive to fast bowling, particularly in South Africa. It's just so important when you're on wickets that are benign and aren't conducive to fast bowling, you've got to find a way to get around that. In 2001 that's the big thing I learnt. You can't try and blast batsmen out."

Help, if wanted, was also forthcoming from Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan fast bowler based in Manchester, who felt that Johnson could sacrifice swing for accuracy early in his spells.

"If you don't have a straight arm it's very difficult to get wickets in England because everything is swinging away from the right-hander and going down the leg side to the left-hander," Akram told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"He should stick to his natural strength as a left-armer and when he gets his rhythm, then he should try different things … I have been through this patch, Glenn McGrath has been through this patch. It's very simple, just get his arm straight in the nets and he will come back to it."