The Australian fast bowler has deliberately stayed away from the lure of popular Twenty20 league in India, the Indian Premier League. Although speculated to earn high stakes in the high profile IPL, Johnson made the conscious decision to not participate Twenty20 in order to use the period of the off season towards getting fitter and working on his technique while also, using the opportunity of the break to recharge his batteries for the grueling national demands ahead. Four IPL’s later, Johnson has remained determined to keep working and improving on his role within Australian cricket than fall for the lure of a fat pay cheque.
However, the story can be quite different when it comes to playing in one’s own club or country league. The Twenty20 Big Bash league (BBL) is being promoted in a big way in Australia, deviating from the original format to a city based format a la the IPL with Cricket Australia clearly intent on raising the profile of the Twenty20 league to make it a cash rich venture, much like how the IPL has served the BCCI’s interests.
In that like the IPL, CA would have hoped to make sure that the big stars of Australian cricket, the Australian cricketers who have made the national squad, would sign up in a hurry. With star attraction, naturally it would be easier for the Australian cricket board to attract investors to the league. But clearly some cricketers are clearly prioritizing their achievements in specific areas, willing to forfeit the opportunities to make more money in a short span of time and instead work on their skills to not necessarily establish themselves but rather to prove more potent for their national side. That is indeed a noble endeavour on the part of Mitchell Johnson and must be applauded as much.
Johnson’s decision is not particularly a shocking one given that he has turned down Twenty20 league offers in the past, But that this decision comes with regard to Australian cricket is what makes it even more interesting while being remarkably consistent on the part of the fast bowler who was on his way to establishing himself as the spearhead of the Australian bowling attack when Brett Lee was sidelined, but has subsequently suffered the highs and lows, quite prominently during the Ashes in England, to know that his has to be a work in progress before he can truly reckon himself amongst one of the great gamechangers for Australian cricket.
That ambition, in his opinion, requires his undivided and singleminded attention and Johnson is not afraid to take the risk of the loss of a rich pay day in order to perfect his art. It has to be said that in this case, the club versus country debate is not even an issue in Johnson’s mind, which is rather refreshing, although cricketers should not be degrudged for wanting to make money out of their success. Johnson’s revival with the ball would also be important from Australian cricket’s perspective because it would significantly Australia’s chances of picking themselves back into the race towards becoming no.1, a post they held long enough that it hurts to have lost it.