Former Australia skipper Kim Hughes has slammed selectors for being “too precious” with Australia’s bowlers and said resting dropped paceman Mitchell Johnson before a likely recall for the third Ashes Test would be lunacy.
Johnson was omitted after finishing with figures of 0-170 during the drawn first Test in Brisbane, but could return in Perth after a revamped Australian attack was again put to the sword by England’s batsmen in the second Test defeat in Adelaide this week.
Johnson would be rested from state cricket duty this weekend to work with bowling coaches on his technique, local media reported, sparking heated speculation that selectors had pinned their hopes on the 29-year-old finding line and length in time for Perth. England lead the five-Test series 1-0.
“Resting Johnson would be absolutely ridiculous,” Hughes, who captained Australia on-and-off from 1979 to 1984, fumed in yesterday’s Herald Sun newspaper.
“The bloke couldn’t bowl a hoop down a hill. He’s spent a week in the nets and now he’s going to spend another week in the nets,” he said. “It’s insane. We need this bloke bowling in match conditions. I don’t care how much work you do in the nets, you need to bowl in the middle.”
Hughes accused selectors of mollycoddling the erratic 2009 ICC Cricketer of the Year, whose pace and late swing can be deadly when on song, but also horribly wayward on off-days.
“It’s pathetic. These blokes get a million dollars a year and it’s too much for him to bowl for Western Australia and back up for a Test match,” Hughes said of the left-armer, who was scarred by a poor bowling performance during England’s first Ashes win at Lord’s in more than 70 years last year.
“Dennis Lillee would play 80 days-plus. Today’s bowlers play 40 days. We’ve just become too precious. We’re wrapping our elite players in cotton wool,” he said.
Despite lacking penetration at Brisbane, Johnson’s chances have been buoyed by the impotence of pace trio Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris, who managed only five wickets between them at Adelaide.
Harris, the pick of the Australian bowlers with 84-2, sustained a minor shoulder injury during the second Test but had been passed fit for selection after having a scan, the team’s doctor Alex Kountouris said.
Australia must make at least one forced change for Perth, with in-form opening batsman Simon Katich ruled out with an achilles injury.
Phillip Hughes, who was sensationally dropped mid-series during the Ashes tour last year after being roughed up by England’s quicks, was “first cab off the rank,” to replace Katich, Ponting said after the Adelaide loss.
The team will name their side for Perth today. The third Test starts on Thursday.