Exclusive: ‘Australia captain Michael Clarke key to Mitchell Johnson’s rise’

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell reckons current skipper Michael Clarke has been key in Mitchell Johnson's resurgence

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Former Australia captain Ian Chapell and Dennis Lillee Photo: Getty

Australia captain Michael Clarke has played an instrumental role in nurturing the best out of Mitchell Johnson, according to Ian Chappell.

The 32-year-old has emerged as one of Test cricket’s most-feared fast bowlers after ripping apart the England batting order during a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia this winter.

Johnson continued his form in the one-day international and Twenty20 series against the tourists as England managed to secure a single ODI triumph from their entire tour Down Under.

As long as he maintain his pace, he can be extremely effective

Ian Chappell

The left-arm fast bowler was similarly effective against number one Test side South Africa earlier this year as Clarke’s men were 2-1 winners against the Proteas.

Johnson’s Test career was on the ropes before he and Australia enjoyed a staggering reverse in fortunes, and Chappell believes the bowler has worked hard on improving his fitness, coupled with Clarke’s good captaincy.

“It’s been an amazing turnaround for Australia cricket but also for Mitchell Johnson,” Chappell told The Sport Review following the ESPNcricinfo awards 2013, which recognises the best individual batting and bowling performances in cricket over the calendar year.

“I think in some quarters, it was probably felt that his Test career might be over. He seems to have got himself together and he looked a lot fitter.”

Chappell continued: “I think Clarke has got the best out of him. That combination has worked pretty well.

“A lot of other people have been trying to get him to swing the ball and worry about his action so he gets it right and swings it.

“Michael Clarke was the guy who said, ‘Mate just run in and bowl fast, don’t worry about anything else’. I think that’s how he operates best.

“What with the fitness and Clarke’s captaincy, that combination has helped him a lot.”

Australia has a rich tradition of producing world-class bowlers, with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne pivotal figures in denying England the Ashes urn for the best part of a decade-and-a-half.

Johnson etched his name into Australian cricket folklore with his devastating displays against Alastair Cook’s men this winter, taking 37 Test wickets and winning the Man of the Series.

So how far can Johnson go? Former Ashes-winning captain Chappell believes the 32-year-old must maintain his fearsome pace to cement his burgeoning reputation.

“You’ve got to maintain it. He’s at an age now where his pace could start falling away a bit,” Chappell continued.

“If he loses a bit of pace that is a big part of his weaponry. If he does start to lose pace, he won’t be anywhere as near effective. Who knows when that is likely to happen.

“With all the medical information that’s available now, he might maintain his pace for quite a bit longer. As long as he maintain his pace, he can be extremely effective.”

Johnson, who was named ESPNcricinfo’s Test bowler of the year, will miss Australia’s World Twenty20 campaign due to a toe infection.

But Chappell reckons the Aussies have enough batting power to see them through the tournament despite the bowler’s absence.

“If it was a Test series, I’d say it would make a huge difference,” Chappell added.

“In T20 where he can only bowl four overs and I think the Australian batting is pretty powerful in that form of the game, he will be a loss but I don’t think anywhere near as big a loss as if it were a Test series.”

ESPNcricinfo’s T20 World Cup content includes news analysis and live ball-by-ball coverage available online and on a host of mobile platforms and handheld devices. www.espncricinfo.com

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