Australian vice-captain Shane Watson on Friday described Mitchell Johnson as a “huge weapon” and said the fiery pacer provided an “X-factor” to their bowling attack against India in the bilateral series.
“It’s important to get our match-ups right when we’re bowling against their batsmen. I think we’ve matched up really well. Mitch Johnson provides a big X-factor for us. There’s a couple of guys who aren’t as comfortable against the short ball compared to some of their other players as well,” Watson told reporters at the team hotel on Friday.
“I think the important thing for us has just been getting our match-ups right. Even batting wise when we’re facing certain bowlers that they’ve got. Also trying to take them on at certain stages of the game. I think we’ve done that really well so far,” he added.
With the Indian batsmen troubled by Johnson, the Aussies are happy to use the pacer against the middle-order batsmen and termed him as a huge weapon.
“It certainly has been [a tactic], there’s no doubt. Even after seeing what happened in the Twenty20 game in Rajkot, especially Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh)… we didn’t get our plans exactly right to him and he’s an extremely talented player.”
“If we give him a chance to get away he certainly hits the ball very sweet. And also to Suresh Raina, he’s a high-quality, world-class player as well. We’re very lucky to have Mitch in our team bowling the pace and control that he’s got at this point in time.
“It’s a huge weapon for us because we know how important their middle order is to their success. We’ve seen it work so far throughout this series. Hopefully it can continue to work for a bit longer. [But] we need to get to that stage. In north Indian city Jaipur we didn’t get a chance to be able to get to that middle order because they batted so well. Apart from that game it has worked really well,” Watson added.
Asserting that he was working to tackle the inswinger deliveries, Watson said, “Yeah I’ve been working hard on it. It still got me out the last game but that’s the way it goes. It was a good ball and things do happen like that in a game.”
“I’ve continued to work really hard on that specific area in general. I feel like I’m very close to be able to get it exactly right. Especially with this series but also with what’s coming up, with the Ashes especially, I need to give myself the best chance to get it right.”
Currently one of the best allrounders, Watson said he was working on his bowling as well.
“It’s always a work in progress. I’m just trying to continue to evolve my variations. When I play against people consistently over and over again they start to understand what my variations are so I’m just continuing to work on it and get it right to bring it into my game,” he said.
Talking about his role as a senior player, the 32-year-old said: “I have played a lot of cricket here especially against the Indian players, playing the Indian Premier League (IPL) a lot and international against Indian players.”
“I’ve certainly got an idea about what they do and what they’re trying to do but also the conditions as well. I’ve been trying to help out as much as I possibly can with the batters and the bowlers to give them an insight into the things that I’ve learnt after playing Indian teams so much.”
“Hopefully it’s added some value in some way to be able to help the guys out in some way and give them the best opportunity to be able to perform like they have been. Its been really exciting to see the way guys like George Bailey and even Glenn Maxwell have batted on this tour so far. It’s one of the bigger challenges, to be able to score runs over here, and they’ve batted beautifully,” he added.
Watson said he enjoyed batting at different positions, something that helps in improving his game.
“The great thing is I’ve been able to bat in a lot of different positions throughout my whole career. I’ve got a good idea about what’s required at certain stages when I do come in so,” Watson said.
“For Rajasthan to be able to bat at number four the majority of times through the middle, I hadn’t really done it that much apart from when I’d opened and got through that stage.
“It certainly been a challenge but I’ve really enjoyed it because it’s really improved that part of my game (batting) through the middle periods of Twent20. But also now batting at three for Australia, that’s where I’m going to be batting a lot of my time through the middle periods of one day games.
“I feel like I’ve got the game to be able to succeed at it. And we’ve been lucky so far throughout this series as well that Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch have got us off to great starts as well. I’ll just try and come in and do as best as I can,” he added.
The fact that Australia bats really deep has given the team a lot of freedom, feels Watson, who credits coach Darren Lehmann for the balanced batting order.
“We’ve got Mitchell Johnson coming in at nine, and Clint McKay at ten has done a good job (with) a couple of little cameos that he’s had throughout this one day series as well. It really just provides us with a lot more freedom than what we’ve had,” Watson said.
“That’s been what Darren Lehmann‘s really brought into our one-day cricket, is to play with freedom. And if we feel we can take on a bowler, to be able to back ourselves and make sure we stick to our plans but take the game on. It has worked really well, most games we’ve played apart from one or two in the last six games we’ve got 300.”
“It means we’re doing something right. The previous couple of years we didn’t get 300 very often at all. Normally if you’re up around that total you give yourself a great chance of winning the game. We’re certainly playing with a lot of freedom and we’re lucky because we’ve got that batting depth as well to know that we’ve got a bit of reserves if things don’t go exactly right,” he added.