Speedster Spencer Johnson Looms As A Key In Australian Cricket’s Transition

Speedster Spencer Johnson Looms As A Key In Australian Cricket’s Transition

A couple of seasons ago, an exasperated Jason Gillespie simply had enough of his tall, talented left-arm paceman.

The South Australia coach and former Test quick decided to give a dressing down to Spencer Johnson, a strapping 6 foot 4 lad with wavy blonde hair and a tan who looked like he had spent too much time on those famed golden beaches the country is known for.

Perhaps he had been. “You like being a professional cricketer and like wearing the tracksuit,” Gillespie, a legendary Test paceman, said when confronting Johnson. “But your actions don’t marry up to your ambition.”

Johnson had made his debut for South Australia in 2017, but a slew of injuries and an apparent lack of desire had seen his career enter the crossroads within five years.

“It’s been an eight-year period for him. He’s had a lot of downs and battles, but SACA (South Australia Cricket) stuck by him,” Gillespie later reflected. “He had a choice, prove me right or prove me wrong.”

Johnson was “quite offended”, according to Gillespie, but the home truths lit a fuse under him and he went about working hard on his body. Finally fit, the 27-year-old Johnson lit up the Big Bash League last season by unleashing 90mph thunderbolts with his left-arm angle and towering height making him almost unplayable at times.

He became an instant sensation and vaulted into South Australia’s Sheffield Shield team and took 16 wickets in just three games to dangle his name – which sounds something like a middle tier accounting firm – in front of the eyes of giddy national selectors.

Since the conclusion of the Australia season, as cricket faded away from the national spotlight bar the tempestuous Ashes series, Johnson has kept busy to continue his rise and prove his once brittle body is now strong.

He was selected for the Australia A tour of New Zealand and performed well with a best of 4 for 53 to suddenly vault into Ashes calculations. But he couldn’t quite pull of a shock selection and squeeze into Australia’s squad brimming with veteran quicks.

“I was placed on standby for the last couple of Tests, so I had to be following things pretty closely,” Johnson recently told Press Association. “Test cricket is number one at the forefront of my mind, hopefully in a couple of years I’m still bowling well and I get a chance.”

Johnson appears a perfect successor to star Mitchell Starc, an aging left-arm quick entering his twilight years who might phase out of the shorter formats to prolong his Test career.

The first steps towards a possible transition will start with Johnson set to soon make his international debut after being selected in Australia’s upcoming white ball tour of South Africa.

“He burst onto the scene last year and I was commentating a game and he was bowling 150kmh (93 mph) and swinging it both ways,” said Mitchell Marsh, who will be Australia’s captain on the South Africa tour.

“He’s an incredible talent. I think he’s going to feel right at home in international cricket.”

Johnson’s burst to prominence, having also starred in The Hundred’s ongoing competition in the U.K., has even earned approval from his hard taskmaster.

“He’s gone a long way to prove me wrong,” Gillespie said. “He’s done a lot of hard work and deserves the success.”

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