Like Kolkata Knight Riders' mystery spinner Sunil Narine, Australian speedster Mitchell Johnson feels bowling to Mike Hussey and Chris Gayle can be most difficult thing in T20 cricket. Both Hussey and Gayle have been in good form in the Indian Premier League and Johnson, playing his first season for Mumbai Indians, says plans always don't work bowlers.
In an interview to iplt20.com, Johnson, who has taken 11 wickets in eight matches so far, says both Gayle and Hussey are dangerous customers in their own unique ways.
"Mike Hussey plays very classical and correct cricket shots whereas Chris goes for power and hits it a very long way. I'd rather not bowl to any of them at their best. But it's always good bowling to old team mates. Having played with Mike, it was a little bit strange playing against him in Chennai but I really enjoyed bowling to him. He's such a world-class player in every format and just for the challenge of bowling to a former team mate, I'd love to bowl to him again, and hopefully get his wicket too," Johnson said.
Johnson had his task cut out when Mumbai Indians hosted Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Wankhede Stadium last Saturday. Gayle was coming off his world record 66-ball 175 not out against Pune Warriors and the Mumbai bowlers were under intense pressure.
Gayle, however, didn't succeed against the Mumbai bowlers. Johnson conceded 16 runs off the 11 balls he delivered to the Jamaican. By any standards, it was a job well done. Did he have special plans against Gayle?
"We planned on bowling short to him, especially on a nice, quick wicket like this one (Wankhede). We wanted to unsettle him and it seemed to work. We got him moving around in the crease which he doesn't like to do," Johnson said, quickly adding that plans don't always work in T20 cricket.
"You never know if a ploy would work on a day in T20 cricket but it worked at that time. We did it as a team. (Lasith) Malinga bowled very well to him as well and we tied him (Gayle) up early on," Johnson said.
The left-arm Aussie pacer reckons there is no "killer" ball in T20 cricket and especially in the death overs when batsmen tend to cut loose. Is the yorker the better option than a wide full toss?
"It depends on individual batsmen. You've really got to do your homework on players. I think if you can bowl a very good yorker, it's pretty hard to hit. On our Mumbai ground, the square is quite long and so it's quite hard to hit a good short ball there. It really does come down to the conditions, grounds and players. But if you can bowl the Malinga yorkers, you'll do pretty well to stick to them," Johnson said.
Johnson and Malinga have done well for Mumbai so far. The Sri Lankan, with six wickets from seven matches, is yet to produce his deadly best. But Johnson is happy with the way things are shaping up.
"We have been able to learn from each other and give advice to each other. I was excited at the prospect of bowling with him when I got signed up by MI. We have been bowling really well as a pair and hopefully we can continue throughout the tournament," the Aussie said.