Ashes: Challenged Johnson must try to retain Ponting’s faith

Monday, November 15, 2010

MELBOURNE - As the Ashes loom next week, Australian left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson faces a short-term challenge of retaining skipper Ricky Ponting’s faith in his abilities to effectively get opposition batters out.

Johnson has been one of Ponting’s great triumphs as a captain, but he must guard against becoming the type of bowler the skipper finds most difficult to handle, reports.

Johnson and Ponting were partnered together on a boot camp in the Queensland hinterland four years ago and just clicked.

Ponting knew that Johnson, shy, unassuming and blessed with a likable nature that belied the testing journey on which life had taken him, came from a broken home and was green in cricket and in life.

Ponting became a mentor who not only provided sensible guidance but robust support in selection discussions and on the field, giving Johnson prime-time opportunities that prompted others to quietly suggest he was the teacher’s pet.

However it proved to be a shrewd investment and Johnson swiftly became one of the world’s best bowlers with Ponting’s backing the wind beneath his wings.

Of late though, Johnson has experienced patchy form and the pressure is on him to deliver.

The gap between the best and worst of them is negligible.

Any bowler who has two bad Tests in a row, Johnson included, can expect to be dropped.

Johnson, though an outstanding performer, needs a huge amount of work to get in the groove and if his action is out by a millimetre or two it can make his radar scramble.

If there’s one thing that frustrates Ponting as a captain it is a bowler who cannot bowl to a plan.

It’s one of the reasons why spinners Jason Krejza and Bryce McGain came and went from Test cricket so swiftl. It’s a reason why Peter Siddle, though his Test record is not spectacular, is highly rated in that if he is told to rough ‘em up he can, but if he is ordered to bowl five cheap overs outside off stump he will do that as well. Plan A or Plan B.

Most captains are control freaks and Ponting is no different.

The higher the stakes in a series and they are as high as the Moon next week the more Ponting craves for low-maintenance employees.

If Mitchell Johnson shines this series, Australia will win the Ashes. (ANI)

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