Johnson in the mix puts fans in a spin

EINSTEIN strikes me as more of a chess man. But had the great physicist studied the Australian squad for the Perth Test, would he have considered Mitchell Johnson's inclusion a compelling example of his famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Or, as a stats man, would Einstein have run an eye over Johnson's impressive Test figures in Perth - 30 wickets in four Tests - and applied the less internationally celebrated ''horses for courses'' theory?

There are video refereeing decisions that divide opinion less than Johnson. The 31 year-old is regarded, by most, only for his greatest feats and most obvious flaws.

We see either a seering yorker delivered from a devilishly awkward angle knocking out middle stump, or a ball sprayed so far from the intended target that Inspector Gadget, rather than umpire Billy Bowden, is best equipped to indicate its width.

Of recent performers, only Shaun Tait has been a player of such extremes. And, despite his frightening pace, Tait did not make the mistake of arousing public expectations with spectacular achievement at Test level before deciding the lavishly rewarded two-over spells of the Twenty20 circuit were more his bottle of energy drink.

Poor form at vital moments - particularly against England - and the injuries that are now as much a part of being an Australian fast bowler as red stains down the front of the pants, seemed to have ended Johnson's Test career prematurely.

Particularly as the line-up of possible replacements - James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood - was longer, and almost as youthful, as the autograph queue at a One Direction concert.

Those who remembered the Johnson who gave fielding practice to fine leg and third man, not the Johnson who produced those unplayable sandshoe crushers, did not lament his exile. He was the scapegoat for the failures against the Old Enemy. A man whose private life - particularly a somewhat emasculating public feud between his mother and girlfriend - created an unwelcome distraction.

No wonder, then, the shudder of fear created by Johnson's inclusion for Perth has been felt by the Australian public, not the South African batsmen. Still, in a country that prides itself on giving everyone a second chance, why not give Johnson a fifth? Particularly at a time when Australia's attack looks like it has returned from a war zone.

Instead of sending the drinks out to Peter Siddle on day five, they should have sent out Simpson and his donkey. Pattinson is wounded. Ben Hilfenhaus, despite the odd wicket, looks more like the question than the answer. Other potential reinforcements - Hazlewood and John Hastings - have been airlifted in. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Desperate enough to play Johnson?

If the left-armer's maddening inconsistency demanded his exclusion, you must admire the way Johnson puts himself out there.

As a youngster he had piercings and tattoos when, at least in the conservative world of cricket, they were eye-catching, even rebellious. Not like the faux-Buddhist graffiti that desecrates so many young bodies, signs of conformity or lack of imagination.

In England, as Johnson's deliveries became more dangerous to the gentlemen in the egg and bacon ties than the batsmen, he was the butt of cruel taunts. ''He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, Mitchell Johnson, your bowling's shite,'' the Barmies chanted, even before he had marked out his run-up.

To not only hear this derision, but vindicate it with your performance on the biggest stage, must be soul-destroying. Not the type of thought to keep you motivated through the gruelling months of rehabilitation. But Johnson worked hard over the winter with his bowling whisperer Dennis Lillee.

His Sheffield Shield form has been good - if not, as his detractors were keen to point out, as good as Tasmanian Jackson Bird's.

Even if Johnson was to succeed in Perth, the sceptics would consider it another (adopted) home-city aberration. But a return to favour for the maligned quick would be a terrific story.

If one that, even for the stout-hearted fan, might require a blindfold and a stiff drink.

This story Johnson in the mix puts fans in a spin first appeared on WA Today.