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Mitchell Johnson was the highest wicket taker in the first six ODI India-Australia encounters in the ongoing series © PTI

It isn’t often that an international side sends back one of its top performers home amid an overseas tour, especially when they are on the brink of a series win. Australia’s move to withdraw Mitchell Johnson in order to put him on preparations for  the Ashes 2013-14 not only shows that they can be audacious, but his return will also provide ample amount of time for him to gear up, come November 21. Devarchit Varma has more…

Australia’s decision to send back one of its top performers home ahead of the series decider was bizarre. Former player Matthew Hayden too, made his disbelief clear during a pre-match show ahead of the seventh India-Australia ODI. But, if one looks at the bigger picture, with the impending Ashes, the decision is nothing but another desperate move by Australia to bolster their chances in the Ashes 2013-14 and to avoid further ignominy.

In all likeliness, Mitchell Johnson is set for the first Test at Brisbane and his early return from the India tour carries a straight forward message for England — to gear up to face the fiery left-arm pacer, who is certainly peaking at the right time in many ways.

His  present form and performances in One-Day Internationals (ODI) give him enough fuel to power a depleted Australian pacer bowling attack and provide apt support to its leader Peter Siddle. Johnson seems to have rediscovered the lost mojo — the bounce, the pace and the quality of being an ‘intimidator’ — a quality he displayed in India.

On batting friendly conditions, he bagged seven scalps in five games. For some it may look ordinary but the way he bowled on the flat decks, generating fierce pace and bounce while troubling the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina — it would have brought smiles on many Australian faces — especially Test bowling coach Craig McDermott’s.

An in-form Johnson is indeed a major boost to a depleted Australian fast bowling department with James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird’s availability still not confirmed. Though the Australian management had decided to keep mum on the status of injuries to players for the Ashes 2013-14, in all likelihood a fast bowler who is on top of his performance, is in good rhythm and is taking wickets is more likely to get the nod ahead of those who are making a comeback.

Johnson gets about two weeks to prepare for the November 21 start, wherein he will play two Sheffield Shield matches. While his role and strategy was of an ‘intimidator’ in India, he will be pumped up to take on arch rivals England as he has some unfinished business against them and the raucous Barmy Army, who made life difficult for him in the last Ashes affair.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)