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