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Mitchell Johnson wants to strike hard

Mitchell Johnson seems to have found a renewed vigour ever since his good showing in the last Indian Premier League (IPL). The left-arm pacer shared the honours of topping the bowling charts with Harbhajan Singh, claiming 24 wickets in 17 matches for current IPL champions Mumbai Indians.

Mitchell Johnson
Mumbai Indians’ Mitchell Johnson celebrates a wicket against Pune Warriors India during their IPL tie at the Wankhede Stadium earlier this year

Johnson, with his mesmerising speed and accuracy, was one of the key stars to help Australia bounce back from the Ashes loss to win the ODI series against England 2-1. His performances also brought him back in contention for the Ashes lifeline.

Back in India after fulfilling his national duty in the UK, Johnson is aiming for an encore of his IPL performance as Mumbai Indians open their assault over Rajasthan Royals in the Champions League T20 opener today.

The Queenslander spoke to MiD DAY over the phone about the new challenge, missing Lasith Malinga and Australia’s tour to India next month.

Excerpts:
On the CLT20 challenge…
It’s a new challenge. We won the last time in 2011. I am looking forward to perform well and win the title again. We are hoping to put up a similar performance like in the IPL. 

On the opening game…
We would like start with a win under our belt. We have had some good training sessions. We have got used to the ground conditions by now. No big plans (for the opener)… just want to go out there and play a good game of T20 cricket. We want to start with a win in the first game and get going in the tournament.

On the preparations…
I am very happy with it. It was quite cold in England and there is a lot of heat here. That’s the only big difference of being in India. Personally, I am doing well with my bowling. There is not much of a difference playing 50-over and T20 cricket. So, I have had a good preparation.

On the blistering pace…
I was also quite surprised with the kind of pace I was generating (in England in the recent ODI series). It was unexpected for me. I think it’s to do with my bowling rhythm and shortened run up. I hope to continue it over here as well… pitching it up and aim the stumps. I would like to bowl the same aggression as in the IPL, try getting early wickets in the beginning.

On Lasith Malinga’s absence…
It (planning) will definitely change. Malinga has been a big part of the Mumbai Indians. He is been unbelievable in T20s especially. He will be missed that’s for sure. But we have a couple of young guys coming through. Nathan Coulter-Nile was with me in England and was quite impressive. He will grab every opportunity that will come at him. There are a lot of young Indian bowlers who had a go in the IPL. We have the back-up plan, but Mali (Malinga) will be missed in the death bowling.

On the added pressure in the bowling department…
I am not going to put any extra pressure on myself. It worked very well for me… opening the bowling and Mali (Malinga) coming in to bowl in the death overs. That will change now. But I will not change my approach. I will continue to bowl aggressively and try getting early wickets.

On the experience bowling alongside Malinga…
It was a great experience to work with Malinga. He is very dangerous in T20s. We talked about field placements and where we should bowl. He works very hard. I love his action. It was great learning the slower deliveries form him. It is amazing how he generates the pace. It was nice playing alongside him.

On MI possibly dedicating this CLT20 to Sachin Tendulkar…
Everyone wants to do well for the team. With Sachin being such a huge part of the team, you can’t let it affect the way we perform. The way we performed in the IPL was unbelievable. If we can have a similar performance again in the Champions League, it will be fantastic. That’s the added pressure and its how we are looking at it at the moment. We want to perform well and hopefully get another trophy back to Mumbai.

On Rohit Sharma as captain…
He was very good in the IPL. I am looking forward to work with him again. He is a very good communicator and a very talented batsman. I am looking to talk to him on and off the field, get his ideas. He did and exceptional job in the IPL and I am sure he will get better with more matches.

On Sharma as a possible India captain…
It’s a tough question. With MS (Dhoni) and a few other guys in the waiting, there is an opportunity at a later stage to have a captain like Rohit. All that I can say at the moment is that he is definitely giving himself every chance and performing well with the bat too.

On getting used to Indian conditions through IPL…
I have spent a good time in India in the past as well with the Australian team. I have always loved coming here. Through the IPL, I have got accustomed to the conditions here in a better way. The wickets here are a lot flatter and stay a bit lower. I always enjoyed the challenge bowling here.

On the next month’s India-Australia ODI series…
7-nil in favour of Australia (laughs). It is going to be a tough series. I have played a seven-match one-day series earlier as well here and it was quite tough. We have just done well in England beating them 2-1. The boys are very confident at the moment. We had a few changes as well. I think we have a very good strong ODI team. It is going to a closely fought series.

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