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Where is Mitchel Johnson’s career at?
You don’t have to be a genius to know it is closer to the end than the beginning. But, how much longer should he play?
It’s always tricky when a player gets to this time in their career. A quick look back at some of the most recent retirees show a blend of getting it right and wrong. Mike Hussey’s retirement was almost a shock. I’m not sure any of the public would have put money on him pulling the pin when he did. He was at the top of his game and the team wasn’t exactly world beaters at the time. Mr Cricket called it because he just couldn’t keep touring. He didn’t want to be away from his family anymore and while there’s no doubt it couldn’t have been an easy decision, he just didn’t seem to complicate it.
Ricky Ponting on the other hand was a future Hall of Famer trying to mentor a team in transition from one of the greatest eras of domination in modern sport, to a team that would always have to live in the shadows of that era. Punter stayed in the team with good intentions but unfortunately it seemed like everyone could see the truth but him. He has recently admitted that he got the timing of his retirement wrong. He was out of form and should have let Michael Clarke take complete ownership of the team and to mould them how he saw fit. It is tough to tap someone, who has given so much service to any sport on the shoulder, and tell them ‘times up’. It’s easy to say he should have been less stubborn and let go earlier, but it’s that stubbornness that took him to the top of the game. We can’t have it both ways.
The most recent is obviously Clarke, Haddin and bloody Watson. I’ll start with Haddin. While his batting form had dipped basically since the Ashes whitewash in 2013/14, his glove work was impeccable. It’s a real shame that one of the lasting memories of Hads will be the dropping of Joe Root, which with the benefit of hindsight is one of the moments that could have won Australia the series. He has taken so many screamers in his time and to see him go out on the back of that isn’t the way his script deserved to go. That being said, I think the selectors got it right by sticking with Nevil, and blocking out the sounds of Warne and Co.
Waston….. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I will sit here and write 20,000 words on why Watson should have retired sooner but why would he when the selectors kept picking him? So let’s just leave this one here and move on to Clarkey.
In my opinion, Clarkey nailed his retirement. Through all the ebbs and flows of love and hate for the man, I think history will look back very fondly on him. He had the benefit of watching Punter go too long and make the transition harder for him as the new captain. Clarke had already seen that the side was in capable hands with Steve Smith taking the reins while he was injured during the India series the previous summer. So, he didn’t need to stay for the team like Ponting felt he needed to. If he went to Bangladesh and scored centuries, the public would say ‘it’s only Bangladesh’. If he goes to Bangladesh and fails then the public would scream ‘he can’t even score against Bangladesh’. It was a no win situation for him. Well played Clarkey.
Now… To MJ….
When is his ‘too long’ coming? He didn’t get the wickets we needed in England, and was outdone by Hazelwood and Starc in the Windies. You can’t say he isn’t fit enough for international cricket; he still looks like a machine.
He has just had the break to get him ready for the summer and came back into the Warriors Matador Cup Team with full effect. He cleaned up QLD with 5/30 odd and looked to have the ball doing a bit. A few of the wickets were questionable. The obvious one is Stanlake leaving one Maxwell would be proud of. The other one that stands out is Khawaja’s aggressive swipe at a wide one that just moved away. At the time, for someone looking to possibly nail down a test spot I think the shot looked reckless, but another one to Johnson anyway.
Johnson has said that he is probably at a time where he can start looking at some personal goals and I remember him having an eye on his mentor’s wicket taking record of 355. Currently Johnson sits at 309 wickets at a strike rate of a tick over 50. At that rate, assuming he bowls roughly 35 over each test match, he will need a further 12 test to get past the great Dennis Lillee. We have six tests at home this year followed by another three tests in New Zealand through February/March. After a lengthy break from test cricket we tour Sri Lanka around June/July for the full shebang. Three tests, five ODI’s and three T20’s. So that gives him his 12 before next summer where we host South Africa for four and Pakistan for three.
The question is, will he keep enough form to hold the young guns at bay?
Starc was our destroyer in the UK, and while he was wayward at times, that is his job. There’s a chance that if he had Siddle at the other end, or if Hazelwood found his line, he could have taken more. Johnson only really had the one good game (at Lords) and that’s pretty much it. He did enough to exorcize the demons of his last Ashes Tour, but not enough to lead this team to victory. Whereas, Starc nearly did.
I think he will be gifted the Sri Lanka series no matter what form he is in because Starc is pencilled in for ankle surgery as soon as this summer is over, probably even before going to NZ. The selectors will not like the idea of going without a left arm bazooka in their arsenal.
Then it’s onto the home series against South Africa. I think he will want to be there, just because it’s South Africa. He loves playing against them, he seems to lift. When you add in the hard-on the selectors have for him, if he takes just one wicket in each innings of the Sri Lanka series, he will be in…. Could this then see him right through the summer to retirement after the Pakistan series?
While all that would be the script for MJ, how likely is it?
If he was to have a bad summer from here by ending at th
e bottom of the wicket takers list for Australia, could we see him pull the cord early? He certainly doesn’t have to stay around because we are short on bowlers. The line-up of fast bowling stocks in Australia is insane, with most of them still having the best part of 5 to 10 years left in their legs.
Unfortunately, no one knew which MJ was going to turn up at the Gabba, or for each test after, until it happens. Every expert from here to the Caribbean could put their two cents down, but nobody actually knows.
Personally, it would be great to see at least one more summer of Johnson magic before he hangs them up and lets the new crop of quicks make this team their own. I do get the feeling that he will fight for a crack at the South Africans, and who could blame him?
Good luck MJ.