Johnson lacks runs, but not support
By Akeem Greene
Ever since his majestic 165 against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in Match 11 of the 2017-18 Four-day season, Guyana Jaguars captain Leon Johnson hasn’t been able to replicate the type of success to match his enormous and undoubted talent.
It has now been 12 matches on the trot without a ton; during this period, he has managed three fifties with a best of 61 against Barbados Pride.
Johnson’s dearth of runs has been shielded by the fact the Jaguars have been a dominant force under his leadership, winning four consecutive titles.
But, his form, or lack thereof, hasn’t escaped the pundits, who continue to hold the former West Indies youth captain to a high standard.
After all, Johnson’s primary role in the team is as a frontline batsman; his experience of 105 First-Class games cannot be taken for granted. Now that Shivnarine Chanderpaul has opted for duties beyond the boundary, Johnson, inevitably, is the nation’s premier batsman.
It is for this reason he has come under the microscope, and inescapably so, following his side’s back-to-back defeats, an unprecedented occurrence for the Jaguars since regional franchise cricket started in 2014.
Some social media ‘experts’ on the game, including Johnson’s fans and detractors alike, have been analysing the 31-year-old returns over the past two seasons, some even calling for the Jaguars skipper to be dropped.
Such a move is certainly not being entertained by Head Coach Rayon Griffith; in fact, he believes Johnson has the ingredients that are required to end the rot.
The Head Coach is not prepared to ‘throw in the towel’, at least not yet, on a player who led the team well, despite his personal struggles.
“You want to see your captain getting runs, but things have not happened as yet for him and I am not going to leave him behind; I am going to back him and keep believing in him and (I) do hope he comes out during this game,” the coach contended.
The game Griffith refers to starts today (Thursday) against Jamaica Scorpions at Providence.
It provides another opportunity for Johnson to break the shackles. A top score of 51 and an average of 23.22 after six rounds this season are not the type of stats that would please any top order batsman, especially one who has experienced the rigours of playing at the highest level.
This is Johnson’s 15th season of First-Class cricket, and his longevity has been a direct result of commitment to the trade and a deliberate embrace of fitness-oriented lifestyle, fuelled by rigorous work, even in the off-season.
He’s definitely among the group of hardest working Guyanese cricketers; the coaches would be in denial to state otherwise.
He portrays a solid technique and understands the game well- those who interact with ‘Johno’ would easily concur.
So, what then could be the bugbear?
It is mental? It is psychological?
Whatever the reason, Johnson has always been true to himself. He is congnisant the runs haven’t been flowing and he would be the first to admit to such.
All sportsmen go through these phases- the bad patch, wretched form, nothing goes their way- but Johnson can lean on the support offered and confidence bestowed on him by Griffith.
“I don’t know if he’s feeling that pressure (of not scoring), but he does not show it. He looks very strong, he looks very confident, he comes out and does his routine in terms of batting and fielding. To be honest, I trust he will come good. I am going to back him and he has to back himself and bring this team together.”
Not so long ago, in the 2015-2016 season to be specific, Johnson was in full flight, amassing a chart-topping 807 runs, nudging the West Indies selectors and earning a recall against Pakistan in Sharjah.
After six innings and 96 runs, 47 of which came in one innings, he was swiftly dropped.
The battle since then has been an uphill one.