July 29, 2009

Give Johnson one more chance

Finding the right pace combination for Edgbaston will be tough, but Mitchell Johnson deserves a chance to regain his form

This is one of the toughest XIs the Australian selectors have had to pick in a long, long time. There are so many issues and there will be long discussions. Should Mitchell Johnson get another go? Will Stuart Clark be recalled? And what about Shane Watson? All I can say is I don't envy them.

I do have faith in Australia's bowling attack despite what happened at Lord's. The main problem in London was only one of the quicks did well. While Ben Hilfenhaus - he's the find of the tour, I reckon - has been so consistent, Johnson and Peter Siddle have been leaking runs. At Edgbaston Australia must control both ends for long periods, and that is what Clark does. He's a proven performer at this level over 22 Tests and he would provide the team with some much-needed stability.

I've been a strong supporter of Johnson and I'd like him to get one more opportunity. He's come under some heavy criticism and we all know he hasn't been performing. But Australia won't want to drop him from go-to man to the team's No. 4 choice in a couple of matches. He's got a good record over the past couple of years. Give him another chance.

Siddle has been falling into the trap of searching for wickets too often, he's been looking for the glory ball. His strengths are line, length and getting some natural variation, but to achieve that he needs to be good at the basics. When he has done that at first-class and Test level he has been amazing.

The only one who is really secure is Hilfenhaus. He's been a captain's dream in the first two Tests and I love what he said this week: "I just turn up and do what I'm told." Ten overs of back-breaking work into the wind? No problem. He's been so reliable, a very important cog, and his results - he has nine wickets at 31.77 - would have been even better if there had been pressure at the other end.

While there are four fast men vying for spots, keep an eye out for Watson. It is well known that Jamie Cox, the selector on duty, is a big admirer of Watson, so don't be surprised if the allrounder is in the 12. So that makes five pace options to choose from. Finding the right combination is a nightmare. Who is going to miss out? Sorry, I just don't know.

Edgbaston will offer a bit of assistance for the bowlers and while it's a good wicket for batting, it can lull the batsmen into a false sense of security. They feel in quickly and get comfortable, which can be their downfall. A lot of times they are dismissed between 20 and 40, so look out for that in this Test.

Finally, I can't go without commenting on Rudi Koertzen's view that it's cheating if a batsman waits for the umpire to make a decision when they know they've nicked the ball. I was not a walker, but I didn't feel like a cheat. Like my Dad and my coaches told me, always respect the umpire's decision - good or bad. Sometimes I got lucky, sometimes I got howlers, with the bat and ball. I just got on with it.

In the so-called Spirit of Cricket and in the rules of the game it clearly states that the umpires are in charge and players must respect their decision. Therefore, why is a player a cheat if he waits for their judgment? Some food for thought.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jeffrey on August 5, 2009, 14:06 GMT

    Sorry, but down 1-0 with only two games left to play and Australia just cannot afford to persist with Mitch after letting him waste most of the series. The team which will win the next two matches is required and the bowling has been even weaker than the unreliable batting.

  • Karthik on August 5, 2009, 8:57 GMT

    I just have a couple of questions to Jason

    1.What does he think of all those who walk in case they get a bad call from an umpire?. 2. What does fair play mean to him?

    May be, the best way to go forward, would be to have only third umpires - These players dont seem to be helping them anyway!.

  • TOM on August 4, 2009, 3:08 GMT

    It's good to go back to this after the test has finished. Johnson started to find quite a bit in this match and good on the selectors for sticking with him. Well picked, Dizzie. Siddle is more than capable of doing what Clark used to do and should stay. Did I mention that Johnson now has 10 wickets and not bowled well. Apart from a 5 for, Freddie hasn't snagged more than 1 wicket in an innings and none at all in this just finished match. He is gone! On a final note, Hauritz has also taken 10 wickets, in fact the stats seem to show Australia superior to England in most respects. Surely it's going to show in the last 2 tests. I'm confident of a 2-1 result.

  • Matthew on July 31, 2009, 9:30 GMT

    If I have clearly dismissed a batsman but the umpire gives him not out, I can accept that I have to head back to the top of my mark and get on with it. If I'm wrongly given out while batting, I can also accept that I need to head back to the pavilion without spitting the dummy. After all, these things will happen, sometimes I'm just unlucky, and no amount of gentlemanly behaviour or "the spirit of the game" can save me from bad luck. On the other hand, I'm not about to start "walking" or calling batsmen back- surely I deserve my good luck just as much as my bad luck? Do we think the umpire's job is to enforce the rules, or to ask the players what the decision should be? Do we think the player's job is to play the game or to govern the game? Players are paid to compete and entertain. Koertzen is paid to enforce the rules. If he is not able to enforce these rules, maybe he should stop collecting a paycheck.

  • Mark on July 31, 2009, 1:15 GMT

    In my opinion Rudi Koertzen's view is spot on. Its always been a game of sportsmanship and Integrity, right? Similar to golf, if i move my ball 1cm unintentionally by moving a twig and no-one saw it but me....I am by the rules, suppose to penalise myself a shot. Say I didnt think it mattered and I win the competition by one shot. Technically I am a cheat and only I know and have to live with that. So in cricket how is it not the same? An umprie is there to adjudicate the decisions u cant make yourself ie. obviously its possible to edge it and not know it. consider that one decision where u didnt walk when u know you knicked it and go on to make a ton, change the course of the ashes.have you won them fair and square? technically you have cheated against the rule sof the game.its about time it started from the top at interntional level where some players take responsibility on improving the integrity of the games image. If everyone did it then it wouldnt be an issue.

  • Crystal on July 29, 2009, 14:22 GMT

    I agree that Johnson should be persisted with although the two-year revelation that some are claiming him to be is a bit off. Johnson was bowling badly in the West Indies '08 and had a mediocre series at best in India '08. 2007 was all Lee/Clark, with Johnson factoring very little in the series against Sri Lanka and India at home. Johnson really only came into his own when Lee and Clark were struggling with form and injuries. Right now, what we're seeing is Johnson at his worst and although his series returns are a bit better than a few of the other bowlers, it just shows that sometimes stats aren't a true representation of how a player has truly performed, and Johnson has been dire. One more test for MJ, hopefully he can regain that lost spark and show us why he's being backed otherwise, should he fail, it should be his last test for the tour.

  • Chris on July 29, 2009, 10:21 GMT

    Absolutely pick him, no question

    Having sat in front of the Compton a couple of weeks ago and watched the 22 fours before lunch, i have to say he was a huge asset to England.

    When he fielded just in front of us, we reserved our biggest cheers (bar Strauss) for the moments RP waved him back on to bowl

  • Leanne on July 29, 2009, 9:39 GMT

    Clark is a MUST. Someone has to go to make room for him. It's difficult but I don't think we can afford to persevere with Mitch. I really like the guy, and he's a great bowler. But he's just not in the right place - as he has showed in all the tour matches, not just the tests - and we have to win at Edgbaston. As for the "walking" thing, the umpires are there to do a job, and they're not doing it. Koertzen is only trying to take attention away from the appalling decisions he made in the second test. Missing no balls is inexcusable, and not referring that catch to the third umpire was a disgrace.

  • Simon on July 29, 2009, 8:18 GMT

    Fair point Rooboy......It's not the players that tend to whinge about the bad decisions.My hands are up that was poorly written / phrased by me there. The thing that annoys me is the media, fans and the former stars of the game who bring these arguements to the foreground. Everyone wants the best of both worlds. Castigate the umps for making mistakes but not the players for cheating. That's not to say one side is worse at it than the others.....I just think we all tend to have a blindness to the faults of our teams. You moan about the deplorable umpiring in this series and 2005 (funnily enough series which you didn't get your own way) and I would point you to similar disgraceful umpiring in the 2006/07 series. Strauss was given out about 4/5 times incorrectly....but of course you tend to forget these things.Let's also look at this series..other than the much talked about aussie dismissals there have been plenty that have gone against the POMs (wicket off a no ball in cardiff, lbws etc)

  • Luke on July 29, 2009, 7:15 GMT

    You may not 'know' who is going out for the next test, Dizzy, but how about making a recommendation - you are writing an opinion piece after all! Agreed that calling players 'cheats' for not walking is a bit much. It seems everything relates to the spirit of the game nowadays. Players could be more respectful though: but the media sure needs to be. Highlighting umpiring mistakes may be the perogative of writers but ignoring the human element of sport which always will include errors is stupid. At least Rudi is supportive of using appropriate technology to assist in making the right decisions. But we mustn't think this will solve all the problems. If it's the umpires who decide what is referred then there will be issues: it's still their judgement of whether to go upstairs or not. If it's up to the teams it will be used poorly as it was in South Africa.

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