Fast-bowling legend Mitchell Johnson has voiced frustration as Australia close in on their Ashes campaign, questioning why several Test cricketers are hijacking their preparation for the home series by playing in the T20 World Cup instead of the Sheffield Shield.
In a scathing assessment of Australia’s tune-up for the five-match series against England, Johnson has called into doubt the significance of T20 cricket – even at the World Cup level – and lamented that “the pinnacle format” is being dismissed.
Australia are not, Johnson says, giving themselves “the best chance”.
Booking.com, the official accommodation booking partner for this year’s ICC men’s T20 World Cup, reveals an overwhelming majority of Australian sport fans (81 per cent) agree that playing cricket is a quintessential part of their summer-holiday experience.
Five of Australia’s cricketers all but certain to be named for the opening match of the Ashes in Brisbane, beginning on December 8, are playing in the World Cup in the Middle East: Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith and David Warner. Two Ashes squad bolters in Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell are also with Australia’s World Cup touring party.
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Johnson said he was particularly irked at the prioritisation of the World Cup over the four-day format of Sheffield Shield cricket because of Australia’s barren Test schedule.
Tim Paine‘s men have not played a single Test since losing to India at The Gabba in January.
“What’s more important?” Johnson said in an interview with Wide World of Sports.
“For me, if I was in that situation (of Australia’s Test cricketers), I would have played Shield cricket and got ready for the Tests (instead of the T20 World Cup). I would have got myself ready for Test match cricket, especially as I wouldn’t have played anything (in so long).
“It would be a real concern for me because … bowlers need numbers. You need to get some numbers up, you need to bowl, you need to get a good rhythm.
“Personally, I would have definitely gone down that route (of playing in the Shield). Cemented players really should have stayed back to play in the Shield.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to be performing at the time, I feel.”
With 62 per cent of Australian sport fans saying they would travel with their family to watch a cricket World Cup, sport events are expected to support key travel recovery moments in the upcoming months.
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Johnson, who took 313 wickets from 73 Tests between 2007 and 2015, is confused about Australia’s approach to T20 cricket.
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“I guess we just need to know, when it comes down to T20 cricket, ‘is it still on the backburner or are they really pushing it to try and win?’,” Johnson said.
“I don’t think it really matters if we win it or not. It sounds a bit wrong.
“I always want Australia to win, but not at the expense of Test cricket – the pinnacle format.”
Johnson pointed out that Australia’s best XI for the first Ashes Test remained uncertain.
Marcus Harris and Usman Khawaja appear to be in a two-man race to join Warner at the top of the order, following the admission from Victoria coach Chris Rogers this week that Will Pucovski was “unlikely” to be available. The prodigious right-hander is still battling symptoms from a concussion suffered in mid-October.
The man for Australia’s No.5 position is also a mystery.
“I’ll always back a team that’s being picked,” Johnson said.
“But I think you’ve got to give yourself the best chance – and I don’t believe they have, to be honest. It’s a bit harsh, but that’s just the way I see it. I think you’d probably find a few other guys would say the same thing, or are thinking it but haven’t said it.
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