by Shakaeb Osman
The meteoric rise of Mitchell Johnson has reignited the fire analogous to the pace bowling from the 70s & 80s. The sight of the West Indian quartet,Hadlee or Lillee in that era was enough to give batsmen sleepless nights. .Swing and seam combined with sheer pace was their key to success. The formula seemed to come apart coming into the 21st century after Glenn McGrath showed the bowlers round the globe that its not necessary to bowl fast in order to get wickets in seemingly different conditions. But somewhere cricket lacked the actual flavour of pace bowling .It searched for bowlers who could trouble batsmen with serious pace, even if bowlers possessed pace they lacked the other skill of swing and gameplan (Tait,Akhtar) unlike the duo of Ambrose-Walsh who effortlessly ran through their oppositions with this sort of art. The rise of Johnson has given Dale Steyn a serious competitor vying for the tag of greatest paceman of this generation and a place alongside the illustrious names in the game.
Such has been the extent of the fear that Johnson imparted on the touring Englishmen that their no.3 Johnatton Trott channelled back home after the Gabba test .Australia had drawn first blood. The side which experts backed to take back the urn back home was in tatters as Johnson led Australia to win with a 9-wicket haul .As the focus shifted to Adelaide, Captain Cook was found wanting with his shots, KP clueless with the rising deliveries and the young Joe Root tentative in his footwork. The batsmen were caught in two minds,whether to move forward or stay back and this doubt was the root cause in the success of Johnson. This was supported by the fact that Johnson bowled 38% of his deliveries short of a length, but the major chunk of his wickets came with the full swinging delivery as the batsmen were more concerned with dealing with the physical threat and hanging back in the crease. Johnson came trumps with a 7-for in the second innings at Adelaide. The English batsmen were all over and a 5-0 drubbing seemed reality after the urn was reclaimed at WACA. Opposition waited for the series to get over. He found edges regularly and the disturbed timber was now a sight associated with English batting. This scathing attack was supported ably by the other aussie sppedsters and most notably by Nathon Lyon & Shane Watson who didn’t let the opposition run away and further strengthened the Aussie dominance.
Johnson was equally helped by skipper Michael Clarke who was proactive with the fields he set for him and used him in short bursts. The backroom planning was perfectly executed. The message was clear ; bowl fac and be aggressive unlike the clichéd advice of keeping it simple and bowling line and length.
After the 5-0 drubbing of England the cricket world is again at its feet as the re-emergence of Johnson is celebrated all over with a smile. It has sent message across his contemporaries to go back to the old trick from the trade-of bowling fast. The interest is back again in the art and hopefully the budding cricketers will follow in the footsteps of Mitch Johnson,the Queenslander who has found his mojo back by bowling sheer pace and to a specific gameplan. The turnaround is really heartening considering he was just a member of the touring aussies in England to being the spearhead of one of the best bowling attacks in recent years.