Johnson places country first despite personal struggles
By Akeem Greene
It’s the end of the 2018-19 season of the Windies Four-day championship for Guyana Jaguars captain Leon Johnson, a season in which he racked up 480 runs.
Notably, there were no hundreds; the highest being 76 in the very last of his 20 innings.
Those were certainly not the type of numbers Johnson would have been hoping for when the season started late last year; a few centuries for sure would have been satisfying to the left-hander.
It is hard to expect any batsman to remain at the peak of his powers every season of cricket. The likes of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith are notable exceptions in their own rights, so let’s not paint all with one brush.
However, Johnson in full flight is a treat to watch, and having exposure of playing at the highest level, the latest in 2016, and the foundation of 15 years at the First-Class, you would expect more than the aforementioned stats.
Since a majestic 165 against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in Match 11 of the 2017-18 Four-day season, a triple figure score has eluded the left-hander. It is hard to spot any technical flaw, which leaves one to insinuate the battle is all in the head.
“It was a test mentally when you begin to struggle and the team begins to struggle. It is a bit testing, but we are a resilient bunch and we tend to worry too much, but I sat and had conversations with the coaches and that kind of helped me through as well,” he told the media on Saturday.
“As a captain when I was struggling early in the season, I tried to put the team first and not worry too much about my own performance. You cannot be thinking about too many things at the same time,” the 31 year-old, who was recently named on the list of national awardees, added.
Three defeats this season were the most the Jaguars suffered in a single season since the championship began in 2014. Since then they have endured just six losses in 50 games.
While the batting meltdown (there were only four individual centuries, including two by one player) might have haunted him, Johnson still had to lead a team out of a slight rot this season.
He had to galvanise players who were not accustomed to being on the losing end, and in those moments, the skipper, who will later this year be bestowed with the Golden Arrowhead of Achievement award, rose to the occasion.
“Through the trying times, they guys were still upbeat, the continued to work hard and over the years we would have learned a lot about the game; its hardships. We have four titles and it was not all smooth; we are a resilient bunch and proud to be playing for Guyana and won’t give up the championship easily.”
“We did not win critical moments in games. I said before we would have won those critical moments [in previous seasons] and won [the] championship in seven, eight and nine rounds. It can’t be the same every year and this year we had to fight right down to the end, which shows a true championship team; when you are under pressure, you come up with the goods.”
Ultimately, the batting was the biggest sore point. Two of the four centuries came from wicketkeeper/batsman Anthony Bramble, who made 580 runs, the most by a Jaguars player, at an average of 52.72.
The other two tons were compliments of openers Tagenarine Chanderpaul, the only other team member with over 500 runs, 542 to be exact, and Chandrapaul Hemraj (350 runs in six matches). A total of 20 half-centuries were scored by 12 players.
“A bit disappointed with the guys and myself not carrying on with those half-centuries. I think Bramble was exceptional. He got two hundreds; he would have taken us out of a lot of tricky situations,” Johnson related.
On the flip side, the seamers are virtually ‘won’ the title for Jaguars. They accumulated 25.2 points out of the 55.2 bowling points secured. The seven seamers took a combined 126 wickets.
In this regard, Johnson highlighted that all-rounders Romario Shepherd Clinton Pestano were the impact players this season.
Shepherd played the entire season, bagging 37 wickets and making 315 runs, inclusive of two fifties. Despite struggling with injury during the latter stages, Pestano took 22 wickets and made 214 runs from his seven games.
Editor’s note: Guyana Jaguars won their final round game against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force last weekend, but they are still a tad uncertain of a fifth straight title, with Leeward Hurricanes having an extremely slim chance of spoiling the party in their final match, starting Thursday (March 14).