Mitchell Johnson is the great enigma of Australian cricket. On his day, which often comes against South Africa, he is the world’s best bowling allrounder. His slingy left-arm action generates appreciable bounce from length, a fact to which Graeme Smith’s crooked fingers can attest. Johnson can also be a powerful lower-order hitter, with a Test best 123 not out arriving from just 103 deliveries. At his best he is the very best, and in 2009 was named as the ICC Cricketer of the Year.
Frustratingly, the disparity between Johnson’s best and worst performances is dramatic. After averaging under 30 with the ball for the three calendar years after his debut in 2007, he went in excess of 35 in 2010 and 56 in 2011. What has made this fall in performance worse in the eyes of his critics has been a perceived lack of resilience and an inability to correct seemingly basic faults. Despite so obviously wrestling with his game for a number of months, Johnson was continually selected, adding grist to the mill of negative public opinion.
After four practically unbroken years leading Australia’s attack, Johnson looked set to be dropped for the 2011-12 summer, but a serious toe injury ruled him out of consideration altogether. During his rehabilitation Johnson sought out Dennis Lillee, his former mentor, a move credited with helping him regain his appetite for a game he admitted he came close to giving up.
With a forward-looking selection panel recently installed and plenty of young bowlers competing for spots, it’s difficult to know what the future holds for Mitchell Johnson. One thing is for sure though; if he recaptures his peak form he will be an asset to his country in all forms of the game.