What is more rip-roaring? The big sixes and cracking boundaries whacked by the willow-wielders, or ferocity of the speed merchants?
To this generation which is more addicted to T20 cricket, it’s surely the resplendent willow-wielders of modern generation who take the bowlers to the cleaners in no time, and why not? It’s a batsmen’s world after all.
The tracks are more suitable for the batsmen and rules are friendlier. In the domination of the bat, the bowlers find themselves at the receiving end. Modern day cricket is more about the batsman vs batsman battle rather than a batsman vs bowler clash.
I started to get addicted to cricket in late 80s and in 90s, cricket became my heart and soul. In those days, world cricket was titillating. There existed great battles between the bat and ball and above all, there existed forces of nature – truculent speed stars who used to inject terror in the heart and mind of the batsmen.
Wasim, Waqar Younis, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Allan Donald were the wild beauties who ruled the rooster during the 90s. They were the perfect torch bearers of pace bowling after Imran Khan, Dennis Lillee, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and others before them.
But sadly, in the last decade, there had not been these wild beauties in plenty. The bat was found more dominant and it seemed that fast bowling will soon go the way of dinosaurs. In this commercial world, ball bouncing past the batsman’s head doesn’t attract sponsors any more. Ball beating the bat isn’t termed as financially lucrative. The result, is young men, who wish to become pace bowlers, sacrifice pace and concentrate more on mechanical bowling – line, length and corridor of uncertainty. That’s much less adventurous and dull indeed.
At the fag end of last decade, we witnessed the emergence of Dale Steyn as a force to be reckoned. But cricket fans like me wished for more predators like Steyn. I wished for the raw animal excitement. My heart craved for the terrible beauty. I wanted someone to trigger a Renaissance.
That ‘someone’ certainly has arrived to be reincarnated as the terrible beauty, to rekindle the days of Lillee and Thomson. At Brisbane, in the first Ashes Test, Mitchell Johson’s career took a new turn as he unleashed ferocious fast bowling which was beyond the imagination of English batsmen.
His bouncers were bowled with astonishing control that sent shivers down the English batsmen’s spines. He hit the helmet, he hit the arm and he hit the wicket columns regularly. The English summer in Australia was turned to nightmare due to Mitchell Johnson. Whenever Johnson ran into bowl, he found the crowd roaring his name – a sight which was so common during the days of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Johnson finished the Ashes series successfully with 37 wickets.
After the Ashes, Johnson flew to South Africa and against the best Test team in the world, there was plenty to prove and Johnson hit the jackpot immediately.
In the first Test at Cape Town, Mitchell Johnson was found even more wolfish than the Ashes. His each delivery were ripsnorting, each delivery gobbled the Proteas batsmen in the most brutal manner to leave them shell-shocked! His twelve-wicket haul has already dented the South Africans’ psyche and I am not sure whether they will be able to recover from the effect of such a high-profile fast bowling.
With that moustache, Mitchell Johnson gives the impression of a wild beast hunter who loves to hunt mercilessly and boy, he does hunt batsmen in a terrible manner. For him, fast bowling is not about pinpoint accuracy, maintaining a tight line-and-length outside the off-stump, but it’s all about killing monotony by essaying thrills and chills.
He is not about the splendour and grace, but raw animal excitement. He is about virility and violence and the wild intoxication that living on the edge can provide. No matter on which track Johnson will bowl, his viciousness will be the same.
Mitchell Johnson is modern cricket’s tornado who brings an endemic in the opposition’s batting line-up. As a fast bowler, Johnson is an ideal blend of raw-power, swagger, rhythm and anticipation. He is the crowd’s most wanted bunny – buzz goes around the stadium as soon as he runs into bowl – the crowd knows that an adventure is about to unleash that could be productive or calamitous, but can’t be dull for that is not in his repertoire.
Mitchell Johnson is a terrible beauty. He is the Renaissance for whom I was waiting. He is the revolution which the world cricket needed badly. He will be the catalyst to bring an end to this monotonous batsmen vs batsmen battle and abolish the trend of encouraging young guns to reduce the pace and concentrate more on robotic bowling.
His bustling pace and bone-chilling fast-bowling will change the taste of TV broadcasters which invest more interests on the bowlers’ miseries. Mitchell Johnson will essay a brave new world of vicious pace-bowling – a potent weapon which is rare these days.