Gilbert requests Lillee to guide injured Australian pacer Johnson

Pacer Mitchell Johnson is recovering from a heel injury that he picked up during the second Test against South Africa Getty Images

Sydney: Jan 3, 2011

With injured Australia pacer Mitchell Johnson facing a slide in the rankings and a pay cut, former Test fast bowler Dave Gilbert has asked Cricket Australia to employ legendary Dennis Lillee to mentor the beleaguered left-arm quick.

Johnson’s official CA ranking is all set to decline when the 2012-13 contract list is announced after the West Indies tour in April and he is confronting the prospect of a 300,000 Australian dollar pay cut.

The fast bowling great Lillee, who had described Johnson as a “once-in-a-generation bowler” has been flagged as a Mr Fix-It for the 30-year-old pacer.

“DK (Lillee) had a lot to do with Mitch as a kid so Cricket Australia should look at Dennis helping him out again,” former Test quick Dave Gilbert was quoted as saying in Herald Sun.

Gilbert also said that Lillee has earlier also played a key role in his former prot g s revival.

“My understanding is that when Mitch (Johnson) bowled at Perth (in December 2010) and won us that Test against the Poms (Johnson returned 9-82) … it was after he spent the week leading up to the game with Dennis Lillee,” said Gilbert, who is now the chief executive of Cricket NSW (New South Wales).

“I would be packing Dennis into the kitbag wherever he goes and say ‘OK Mitch, you’re spending time with Dennis’ because whatever he says and does with Mitch seems to work.

“I know (Australian bowling coach) Craig McDermott is there and by all reports is doing a great job, but Dennis would only complement the program even more. We need to give Mitch every assistance so we can get him back to being a world-class bowler,” Gilbert was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.

Currently, Johnson, as one of CA’s top-five ranked players, is on a fixed contract which guarantees playing fees even for the matches he misses, ensuring that he pockets about 1.5 million Australian dollar a year.

But now with the bowler expected to miss the Caribbean tour, CA is set to reward other bowlers in Peter Siddle and emerging young talents — James Pattinson and Pat Cummins.

The left-arm pacer, who is currently recovering from a heel injury that he picked up during the second Test of the two-match series against South Africa, recently, could be away from Australia’s Test team for more than a year.

Johnson finished last year with 13 wickets at 56.62 and faces an uphill task to regain his spot for the 2012-13 home Summer against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Johnson’s last five-wicket haul in a Test came 13 months ago when he took six for 38 against England in Perth. (PTI)