July 22, 2009

A small hitch for Mitch

It's astounding that people are completely writing Mitchell Johnson off after one bad game

I'd hate to think Australia would abandon Mitchell Johnson after one bad game. That's all it was at Lord's: one bad game. Every international bowler has been there and it's not the end of the world. He'll be back - and Australia know it. They'll give him the county match against Northamptonshire from Friday to get back in form ahead of the third Test at Edgbaston.

There are a lot of people who are completely writing him off. It's astounding. At Lord's he bowled some short stuff, he bowled some wide stuff and went for 200 runs in 38.4 overs - and got three wickets. In two Tests he has eight victims. Eight! And everyone is panicking! I couldn't average four a game when I was playing. All the criticism is probably a good thing for him; now he can hit back and prove them wrong.

Sure, there are some concerns. His bowling arm is a lot lower than it should be, which comes from a combination of wanting to bowl too fast and trying too hard. He needs his bowling arm to come over the top a little bit more, but then he's never going to be right up there brushing his ear. If he fixes that, he'll be sweet.

When you're trying to bowl too fast, you rock back and your head goes off line. Your body counteracts what it's doing, so if you lean to your left your front leg might go too far to the right in the delivery stride, and suddenly you're out of alignment. If your head is up high and straight, everything can move in a straight line down the pitch. Head position is so important for Mitch.

In two Tests he has eight victims. Eight! And everyone is panicking!

I reckon his team-mates should take him out for a few beers and a good chat. Pat him on the back and tell him "We're here for you." He's here to play cricket - and that's his job - but you're entitled to enjoy your work. Have some fun, relax. But it can be a bit hard to listen to this advice when you're in a rut. You can definitely get quite insular - it's me versus the world. If he sticks to what he knows, does everything he needs to at training, he can just relax and play. If he doesn't, the seeds of doubt can creep in. That can bring you down.

There are loads of support staff travelling with the side, too. I saw the team photo being taken the other day and there are enough blokes in there that someone should be able to help him. Troy Cooley is a wonderful bowling coach and he'll be the only one talking technical bits with Mitch. But the players are going to be as important as the support staff.

I was very fortunate to have Glenn McGrath, Paul Reiffel, Damien Fleming, Michael Kasprowicz, Andy Bichel and Brett Lee on tour with me at various times. They are all great cricketers and I could call on them about bowling - or anything. Mitch has Lee there, but admittedly Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus are early in their careers. That's where Cooley comes in again.

At least Mitch knows everyone is backing him and wants him to hit back. I had a bad game in 2005 at Old Trafford and I knew Ricky Ponting and all the support staff had lost confidence in my ability. I was far from shocked when I was dropped, and I deserved it. That won't happen to Mitch. Everyone seems to have pretty short memories. Over the past two years Mitch has shown what an important player he is to this line-up. Watch out for him at Edgbaston.

Jason Gillespie is sixth on Australia's list of Test wicket-takers with 259 in 71 matches. He will write for Cricinfo through the 2009 Ashes

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  • Thangadurai on July 24, 2009, 16:15 GMT

    Gud analysis Jason. Am confident tat Aus will comeback stronger. Johnson is a rare player.Their is no point in dropping him. He can quickly adapt to any situation. Though he conceded more runs in the 2nd test,the way he batted in the last day at lords proves his adaptive nature and maturity. He will teach a gud lesson to eng batsmen in the 3rd test.Watch out for him at edgbaston.. Johnson, Michael Clarke and Watson gonna melt eng at edgbaston !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Manish on July 24, 2009, 2:53 GMT

    I reckon they will win 3-0. There'll be a bit of rain, probably at Cardiff and Headingley, and some thrilling draws.

    LOL.What happened weatherman...

  • Clive on July 24, 2009, 0:56 GMT

    I hate to rub it in, Jason, but it's three bad games (according to reports he was lousy in the warm-up game in Worcester too, scrambling the seam every ball). And he's been getting worse. While he actually got some good wickets with good bowling (after a load of tripe early on) before lunch at Cardiff, by Lord's he was only getting wickets as freebies from England's wayward batsmen (Alastair Cook looked startled to get the only ball Johnson bowled at the stumps all day). And when a fast bowler is reduced to snarling at a departing tail-ender after finally bowling him, when he's just been carted all around the park by that same tail-ender, it's a bit desperate.

    Still, I do admire the way you Aussies all rally around each other. We Brits tend to stick the knife in someone as soon as they fail, unfortunately.

  • Tadhg on July 23, 2009, 15:29 GMT

    Dizzy, I think we're ahead of ourselves with MJ. He bowled a single fantastic spell in Perth, 3 great innings out of 5 in SA, and the rest of the time he's been an good-but average young(ish) quick. I'd rather see him dropped than left to lose confidence in an Ashes series, where he's the most experienced bowler. He's too valuable. There's also a definite problem - even when the action is right. He has two lines to right handers - Leg Stump (often defended, rather than flicked fine with the contempt top batsmen should hold it in), and full and far too wide of off. Lee had two lengths, was dropped, got it right, and fulfilled his potential. It would make me very happy if the same happened with MJ. And on everyone saying his figures are amazing - he's got 4 wickets a game where you, Dizzy, struggled for 3? Look at his strike rate (worse than Dizzy and Clark), how many deliveries he's bowled (many more than Clark), and his average. He's good, but young with less quality round him.

  • Baiju on July 23, 2009, 12:35 GMT

    Hey Jason, what happened to your 3-0 prediction, c'mon man, you have to agree that this si one of the weakest Australian team for the last 15-20 years. 8 wickets in 2 matches souns good, but there was another Aussie bowler who took 13 wickets in 2 matches... Jazon Krejza, what happened to him..? So its not about quantity its about quality, it would be an understatement to tell that Johnson was the weak link in the Aussie attack in the first two tests.If he is not going to correct his technical flaws,its going to cost Australia more.

  • David on July 23, 2009, 3:19 GMT

    Eight wickets hides a lot of sins. It's not just one bad match Jason, it's two. Ponting clearly lost faith in his strike bowler at Cardiff on the last day and Lord's hasn't helped Ponting recover that faith. We laughed at Harmison's "second slip" ball in Brisbane a couple of years ago but Johnson has been making the slips nervous all tour. And don't forget the Sydney Test vs SA last summer. He finally got Smith with a cracker to win the game but his previous over (with about 10-15 minutes to go) was the worst I've ever seen from a strike bowler trying to snatch a last minute victory. Not one ball within three feet of the off stick and none had to be played by the batsman. With Johnson it really is "all or nothing". Perhaps he should talk again to Akram, or Davidson, and actually listen. As for him being described as a "confidence" player, I don't understand how someone with 102 wickets in 23 Tests, a century and a 96no would lack confidence. Maybe just a "head case".

  • Neil on July 23, 2009, 2:33 GMT

    Back in 1997, the first Test against England was lost pretty badly. England's first innings was based on a huge 207 from Nasser Hussein. This was Glenn McGrath's first Test in England, and he produced some fairly ordinary figures (32-8-107-2). One Test later at Lord's and McGrath had 20.3-8-38-8. Interestingly, McGrath's success was described thus: "He put his improvement since Edgbaston down to finding his form in the two intervening county matches after a start to the tour dominated by one-day matches." Go forward to 2009, and so far, after two Tests, Johnson has not played well. Where are the tour matches against counties for Johnson to hone his bowling? Are these great professional cricketers so wonderful that they don't even need matches against county sides to ease them into form any more? When Watson or McDonald get a place in the xi, will they have any form at all? Or will we wait for Brett Lee to come in and take 20-0-99-1?

  • Ramakrishnan on July 23, 2009, 1:23 GMT

    Thanks Jason for your indepth analysis about Mitchell Johnson's problems.. What MJ needs now is technical advice from players like you and Glen Mcgrath to overcome his current poor bowling form and no doubt, he will come good in the very near future to prove his detractors wrong. On the batting front, someone should soon come forward to sort out Phil Hughes technical problems, as otherwise he might find himself in the reserves.

  • peter on July 22, 2009, 23:26 GMT

    Look how good Johnson played in south africa. He must stay. Good on you dizzy.

  • Amahl on July 22, 2009, 19:32 GMT

    A lot of pressure has been put on Johnson and honestly, we can't just suddenly label him as a world class all rounder after ONE good series. This is exactly what has happened with Flintoff. I am definitely a Johnson fan but such labels are only going to create great expectations. He has been out of touch with the ball in the first couple of tests but deserves more chances based on his reputation. If we see the same from him next test, I'm afraid that other options will need to be considered. However I have faith in Mitch that he can deliver. The same as I have for Phil who is an excellent player and who suffered from a bit of ill luck in the second innings of the last test. I don't believe he should be dropped as we honestly dont have another pure opener. He really is the future of Australian cricket and I just hope he can show the world that.

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