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Johnson: That was my best international innings

Canada have India left to face in the group stage and the opening batter said, for all the stars, they must play the ball, not the name

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Twenty more runs, and who knows what Canada might have been able to achieve? And looking at the way Aaron Johnson started they threatened to go past the run-a-ball mark, which has been successfully defended in New York on the last two days.
Canada now have only a remote chance to make it to the Super Eights but for a while they dreamed. All thanks to Johnson's half-century on a surface where every batter has struggled. Not surprisingly, Johnson called it the best international innings of his life.
"I think it's my best innings so far in international cricket," he said. "And growing up, you know that Pakistan, one thing they have is quality fast bowling attack, right? And to be able to get a decent total on the board for my team, I think that's up there with the top, probably top two best innings for me."
Johnson took advantage of the early full lengths and never looked back. "If it's in my area, my team-mates, my coach, they give me the license to back myself and play my shots. So, once I get going, I knew that they would pull the length back because they saw that I'm scoring so it's just a matter of me batting as long as possible for the team."
The relentlessness of bigger attacks is something that stood out for Johnson. "One thing I learned, if you're going to score runs, you have to bat very, very hard," he said. "You have to focus. Because again, these guys, just imagine, I batted well against Shaheen Shah [Afridi], and then Babar signal to Amir to come and bowl. And you're thinking to yourself, I remember when I was playing cricket in England, these guys were playing for Pakistan international team. I went to the ground to watch them play. So, to be playing against them, it's a wonderful experience."
Earlier this year, Johnson spent time with Carlos Brathwaite in Toronto. And the Jamaican-born Johnson is also friends with Chris Gayle and Andre Russell. He cherishes the friendship but is also aware that he represents Canada now.
"I'm here representing the Canadian national team and as you say my fellow West Indians, Carlos, Chris Gayle, and these guys. Last game we won, I got a personal message from Russell - we're very good friends. Chris Gayle and these guys would text you sometimes or just to like some of the posts that you make.
"Yes, I get some amount of inspiration from them. And one thing Carlos said to me when we met about two, three weeks ago in Toronto is just relish the opportunity and express yourself. Someone you can change the game for your team. So don't stress too much, don't think too much about it, just react to what you see."
Possibly Canada's last match in this World Cup will be against India, and Johnson is aware of the line between respect and awe. "Again, as I say it's just a ball," Johnson said when asked about the challenge Bumrah and Co. pose. "The ball is very round the moment you walk on the field, anyone can win. Yes, you have to have respect for these guys. They have been doing it for years.
"There are some of them, like someone like Babar today, he's a legend. I'm pretty sure he will be a legend of the game, right? And hopefully we get to play against Kohli, Rohit, all of these guys, the list goes on and on. And you have to respect them, but at the end of the day, you have to know that you're a professional cricketer also. And if they did it, you can do it also. So, it's about respecting them, but also respecting yourself."

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo