Johnson ready for lead role

RECALLED Mitchell Johnson claims he can be the fast bowling leader Australia may need in Perth, as the host contemplates entering Friday's deciding third Test with an entirely new seam attack.

A veteran of 47 Tests, in which he took 190 wickets, the 31-year-old left-armer is back in a Test squad for the first time in a year. A serious foot injury halted and looked to have ended his career after Australia's drawn tour of South Africa last November, but in truth Johnson - lacking in control and confidence - was already facing omission.

Haunted by career-long question marks over his reliability and consistency, he went back to the drawing board after regaining fitness, worked closely with the legendary Dennis Lillee, and in a way, re-learned his craft, via the Sheffield Shield, and Australia A and limited-overs tours of England in the winter.

Now, with an exhausted Peter Siddle in doubt to play at the WACA Ground after his Herculean effort in the second Test in Adelaide, and Ben Hilfenhaus no certainty either after working his own backside off in the dramatic draw, Australia could replace its entire pace attack.

Australia's coach Mickey Arthur says it is conceivable that both Siddle and Hilfenhaus could sit out the deciding contest despite its importance - Australia, should it win, would return to the top of the world rankings - and in their potential absence, Johnson's track record could be key. ''I think I can still be a leader with my experience,'' he said. ''I'm 31, I've played a few Tests and one-dayers and I've got that experience. I was recently named vice-captain for WA, which was really exciting for me.

''It's been just over 12 months now, so I'm looking forward to getting back in there and training hard with the boys and hopefully keep pressing my claims.

''I never gave up hope. I guess for me this injury that came to me was a blessing in disguise. I was able to work on a lot of things. Just getting back into shield cricket as well, has been really exciting for me, just to work on my game, get away from all the media, all the public and just go out there and play my cricket."

Johnson is one of two left-arm quicks, along with Mitchell Starc, in a 14-man squad for Perth that features six seamers. Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings round it out. The younger Starc, Australia's 12th man in Brisbane and Adelaide, has been ahead of Johnson in selectors' minds until now, but Johnson's prodigious record in Perth will count in his favour.

Two summers ago he helped to create Australia's only bright spot in a dismal Ashes campaign, taking 6-33 and nine wickets for the match in a lone defeat of England. Two years earlier, he claimed 11, including a first-innings haul of 8-61, against South Africa.

''The past is the past,'' Johnson said. ''Obviously memories like that are why you play the game. I can sit back when I finish my career and look at those moments where I've done well and really sort of enjoy it, have a beer and talk about it with my mates. But I don't think you can live off those past performances.''

Johnson credits Lillee with steering his career back on course, so it will be fitting if he does make Australia's short list at the WACA Ground, Lillee's home ground, which he now presides over as WACA president. ''I did a lot of work with him early stages especially, coming back from the foot injury,'' Johnson said. ''I just had a good chat about how he came back from his injury; he was bowling very quick before his injury, then came back and became a smarter bowler.

''That's just something that I really worked on, and wanted to get out and do that in the shield games I've played for WA. He's one of the great cricketers of all time so it's always good to get a message from him or a phone call just to see how things are going. I got a phone call from him, before a shield game at the WACA recently, just to keep me on my toes and to keep things rolling. It's nice to have his support, and him backing me all the way.''

This story Johnson ready for lead role first appeared on WA Today.