Australia might consider opening the batting with Shane Watson and Tim Paine in the ODI series against India beginning Sunday but if Mitchell Johnson has his way, they may soon have competition.
The ICC Cricketer of the Year now wants to be considered an all-rounder. And not just that, he even wants to open the batting for Australia. “I am really enjoying going out in the middle and scoring runs, and I will like to be classed as an allrounder,” Johnson said on Thursday.
“I would like to bat higher in one-day cricket and am working very hard at it. It might be a pretty big call, but to be honest, I would like to open the batting in ODIs and Twenty20 for Australia.” And just in case you thought he was kidding, the Queenslander added: “Today, I batted against (Ben) Hilfenhaus and (Shane) Watson at the nets. I do bat regularly against the quicks and push Peter Siddle to bowl as fast as he can.
“I have always enjoyed batting while playing first-class cricket. But I just never worked hard on it. But, at the moment, I am enjoying it and look to climb up the ladder a little.” Starting his Test career at No. 10, Johnson now bats at No. 8.
But bowling’s still priority. “I like to crank it up with the bat, but my topmost priority is to bowl fast and get wickets for Australia.”
Johnson values his ability to swing the ball into a right-hander. “I got it right before the South Africa series and I am enjoying it. I had to work hard on my wrist position.
“I got my wrist behind the ball, which I was not doing earlier. I went through a stage where I thought about swinging the ball so much that I actually lost my swing.”
The ‘spearhead’ tag got to him during the 2009 Ashes series.
“I had opened the bowling in South Africa and there it was fine. But once I went to England, there was a lot of pressure. Lord’s was probably the hardest game in the 2009 Ashes for me as all kinds of thoughts were going through my mind — the crowd, the media, my wrist position, my front arm. “I wasn’t thinking about where I wanted to bowl. Obviously, personal things off the field also got to me (Johnson’s mother said Cricket Australia never gave her the opportunity to see her son play outside Brisbane.
She also blamed his fiancée Jessica Bratich of stealing her son.) I am little embarrassed with I way I conducted myself on the field. But that was a learning experience for me,” he said.
He is ready for the Indian challenge. “The break after the Champions Trophy was refreshing. It’s not like bowling at home where the wickets are fast and with a lot of bounce. We have to rely on our variations — the leg-cutters, off-cutters, the slower balls and obviously the odd bouncer.
Asked what he thought gives him an edge over three other fast bowlers (Brett Lee, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle) in the squad, Johnson said: “I am unpredictable and fast.”.