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