By CricketCountry Staff
Sydney: Sep 22, 2011
Former Australian pacer Damien Fleming has said that the depth in the Australian pace attack means that left-arm quickie Mitchell Johnson will have to fight to keep his place in the team in the upcoming tour of South Africa.
Johnson failed to make a mark in the recently concluded three-Test series against Sri Lanka, which Australia won 1-0. He managed only six wickets at an average of 52.16, while the other pacers Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Trent Copeland impressed with the ball.
Former pacer Fleming told Fox Sports that Johnson must be included in the Australia squad for the series, but the competition among the quickies has put plenty of pressure on the 29-year-old.
"There is pressure on for spots and that's what happens to good teams. I'd say he'd play the first Test against South Africa, but I'd say he'd want to be getting wickets there because if Ryan Harris is fit, Siddle has just had a good Test (in Colombo) and Copeland will be pretty handy in those conditions,” he said.
"And obviously Dougie Bollinger bowled so well in the one-day series, so he's an option as well. Certainly (Johnson) would be wanting to be performing near the top going into this South African series. Otherwise there is a good depth of fast bowlers around,” he added.
Johnson was in prime form in the 2009 tour of South Africa, grabbing 16 wickets in three Tests. But he has struggled to remain consistent and has been relegated to first change.
"I think when Ryan Harris is fit he is probably the spearhead of the attack. He has the new ball in the first over bowling those fast out swingers and obviously you need a Copeland-type down the other end building pressure,” Fleming said.
“So Mitch has got a pretty unique role at first change when he doesn’t bowl with the new ball too much, but it’s still a pretty important role when he is bowling as his best,” he said.
The former pacer said that Johnson must relax and not lay too much emphasis on the issue.
"There were times where I thought when he wasn't rushing in, particularly in the one-dayers, he looked really balanced at the crease. But like everyone, when you're not getting the results that you want, you tend to try a little bit too hard and that is probably what he did later in the series,” he said
“It's hard when you're not getting the results you want. The natural thing is to go in and try even harder.”
Meanwhile, Australian skipper Michael Clarke has denied that Johnson is over his best.
"I still think he's as good a strike weapon as there is in international cricket. I think he's a match-winner with bat and with ball, when he's at his best. Mitch has got some time now if he wants to go away, whether he gets away from the game or if he wants to work on some things,” Clarke said.
"He still bowls good pace. I think he bowled well throughout this series and didn't have as much luck as a lot of the other bowlers. You would have seen a lot of play and misses off Mitch. Conditions didn't really swing as well - he got reverse swing - but I don't think you saw any bowler throughout the series swing the new ball all that much.
"It's going to be interesting come the first Test in South Africa for all the bowlers to work out which three quicks, if we go three quicks, are the best three for that first Test match. Sidds (Siddle) has done himself nothing but favours but I still think Mitch is a huge player for us. I think anybody that thinks Mitch is past his best would be very silly."