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Langer puts hard sell on Johnson for T20 role

30 January 2017

Johnson and Langer guided the Scorchers to the BBL|06 title // Getty Images

Mitchell Johnson still non-committal about returning to Australia colours as Langer says a left-armer is vital

As speculation remains over the availability of ex-Test star Mitchell Johnson for Australia's upcoming T20 International campaign against Sri Lanka, coach Justin Langer claims a left-arm fast bowler is essential in the game's shortest form.

Langer, who will take charge of the T20 squad next month with Bupa Support Team coach Darren Lehmann in India with the Test outfit, will hold discussions with selectors Tuesday on the make-up of the outfit for the three-match KFC T20 International series.

That squad is scheduled to be named on Wednesday, and is expected to be selected on the basis of best performances in the recently completed KFC Big Bash League which was won by Langer's Perth Scorchers franchise.

And while Langer confirmed today that one of the secrets to the success of his three-times BBL champion outfit is the employment of a left-arm fast bowler with the new ball, he admits he still has no idea whether Johnson – a star in the Scorchers' finals campaign – will renounce his retirement from international cricket to be part of the series against Sri Lanka.

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"There’s no doubt he’s good enough to play — he’d be your first picked the way he’s playing at the moment," said Langer, who coaxed Johnson back to top level cricket after he walked away from the game last summer to be a vital part of the Scorchers success.  

"At the end of the day, it's the same as the Big Bash. We could say I persuaded him to play, but he wouldn't have played unless he really wanted to play.

"So ultimately it will be up to him, like all the players, whether they want to play or not.

"I actually don't know where he stands with it, to be honest.

"We talk about it a lot … I might ring him again today.

"I think he's warming to the idea, but I haven't got a definitive yes or no from him.

"If he says blanket 'no' then that's fine, you know there's not a discussion to be had.

"There's no point wasting time talking about it if there's no way of it happening.

"I hate hypotheticals, I like facts."

Johnson, who admitted to being unsure about his decision to return to the BBL shortly before the competition began, gave no indication of reversing his retirement from international cricket in the aftermath of the Scorchers' win.

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"You always think about those kind of things, but playing this Big Bash, I came out here really enjoyed it, had fun, I don't think I'll play international cricket again," he told Ten Sports at game's end.

"That's me done and dusted, I enjoyed it (international cricket) while I played but I'm enjoying myself playing this T20 stuff."

While Langer is not formally part of the National Selection Panel – comprising interim chair Trevor Hohns, Mark Waugh, Greg Chappell and Lehmann – he will be involved in discussions prior to them finalising the group via a phone hook-up on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old former Test opener claimed Monday he was also unaware of whether the panel was looking to nominate the best-performed BBL players to represent Australia against Sri Lanka, which would mean they were picked on performances regardless of age.

Or whether they were using the three matches at the MCG, Geelong and Adelaide Oval starting February 17 to plan for future T20 Internationals given that Australia currently ranks sixth in the world in the ultra-short format.

And have never won a major T20 world tournament.

But Langer does know what has been effective for the Scorchers – the most successful team in the six-year history of the BBL – and he nominated the inclusion of a bowler such as Johnson as key among them.

"I think it's important in T20 cricket to have a left-armer up front," he said Monday.

"It's been a really big part of our success at the Scorchers, to have at least one left-armer who can swing the ball early.

"So if it's not Mitchell Johnson we'll certainly be looking for someone."

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If Johnson declares himself unavailable, or if the selectors decide to opt for younger players who potentially have a longer future at T20 level, then Sydney Sixers left-armer Ben Dwarshuis might come under consideration.

Dwarshuis, 22, was equal fourth-highest wicket-taker in BBL|06 alongside Johnson and West Indian leg spinner Sunil Narine (each with 13 wickets).

And headed only by competition leader and Sixers' teammate Sean Abbott (20 wickets), Brisbane Heat seamer Mark Steketee (15) and Melbourne Stars quick Scott Boland (14).

Langer has already backed the selection of another veteran, uncapped 36-year-old Scorchers batter Michael Klinger.

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But he will learn Tuesday if his faith in older players who might offer immediate rewards but a reduced international shelf life is shared by the four-man selection panel.

"Ultimately, one it's going to be a selectors' call, what approach they're going to take to those three T20s (against Sri Lanka)," Langer said.

"Whether it's going to be a young team or whether it's going to be a team to improve the rankings of our T20 cricket.

"Where Australia is ranked in T20 cricket at the moment, there are two ways you can look at it.

"With the bigger picture approach, or you look to win this series and if you do that you pick the best squad possible.

"They are the discussions that will be had tomorrow, and I'm not clear with the selectors because I haven't had a rally good discussion with them yet.

"Which approach they want to take to it, I'll be better off probably by one o'clock tomorrow afternoon."

Filed Under

Australia Men

Mitchell Johnson

KFC T20 INTLs v Sri Lanka