Time for talk is over in the Australian camp.
Over the last few weeks there has been repetitive dribble coming from both players and administrators.
Mitchell Johnson claims “he is ready” to lead the Australian bowling attack and being the “man” again. Phil Hughes claims (on SEN Radio) that his 12 months out of the test team has made him a better player.
According to these two cricketers, their technical and mental (how could we ever forgive and forget Johnson’s Lords meltdown) flaws are in the past.
Johnson’s return against the South Africans in the third test was hailed a success by the Channel Nine “boys club”. Was it really?
Johnson didn’t disgrace himself in either innings by collecting six wickets for the match largely thanks to his athleticism and desperation.
We haven’t learned anything that we don’t already know. He can consistently bowl above 140km and occasionally get a delivery to sore into the batsman’s ribcage. Yet, like he did in the last Ashes Series, he gives batsmen the “get out of jail” ball to often. Whether, the delivery spirally down leg or the ill-directed short and wide ball that is crunched for four, his old habits have not suddenly disappeared as some commentators hope.
Of course, as the battle between bat and ball tightens and the stakes rise, Johnson emerges with a sorry and moping look on his face rather than a rising swagger. He would benefit greatly from talking with Sir Viv Richards about the mental aspect of the game (Richard’s talk about the mental aspect of the game on Channel Nine’s The Cricket Show was great viewing).
Then there is the young Phil Hughes who has been recalled to the test team after Ricky Ponting’s retirement.
Hughes should count himself lucky to be wearing the Baggy Green again so soon, while Rob Quiney should feel mishandled. Quiney has been the premier state batsman over the past two years. Despite failing in his two test appearances, he would be most ably equipped to replace Ponting due to his extensive first-class experience and consistent form over a long period of time.
Hughes weaknesses are obvious and have been exposed by the premier fast bowlers in the world- Bowl up to his ribs and then tempt him with a wide moving ball. Hughes was the most ill-equipped opener for Australia in the past 25 years, as many English commentators suggested during the last Ashes Series. They weren’t wrong.
The level of success Hughes achieves in his immediate test return will depend greatly on the preparedness of the Sri Lankan bowlers. I suspect that if Australia encounter a focused and united Sri Lankan lot, then Hughes’ technical deficiencies will continue to plague him.
Time will tell if they succeed but it’s time for both Johnson and Hughes to either put up or shut up.