For many, the news that Mitchell Johnson is to sit out the inaugral Big Bash League Down Under next January seems an odd one. For starters, just think of the money he'd be able to earn. While it shouldn't be a motivating factor, the life of a cricketer is a short one, and nobody can begrudge a player getting the most out of being around at this priviledged time. And the even more cyncial amongst the cricketing fraternity have pointed out that T20 should be Mitch's specialist format, as going at 7 an over there isn't that bad.
However, Mitch has been given a contract from the Perth Scorchers, and turned it down. This isn't a Cricket Australia decision - far from it. Whereas in the past CA would dissuade it's stars (if you can call Mitch that) from taking part in IPLs and other similiar overseas T20 extravaganzas, this time for their own big project, they want as many big players as possible to help shift some tickets. And say what you like about Mitch, but plenty of people would come down to watch him bowl to the left, and the right.
So why has Mitch turned down the gold, girls and glory of the BBL? Even despite pressure from his national board to sign up? Well, as well as he's hidden it over the past few years, Mitchell Johnson wants to play test cricket for Australia. He knows he lacks consistency (by which I mean keeping it on the cut strip for consecutive balls) so wants to go and work on that. He wants to lead Australia's attack. And he wants to focus on that.
For most players T20 can be a distraction, but for bowlers it must be a nightmare. Test match bowling of keeping it on a consistent line and length (which, admittedly, Mitch is far from mastering) is thrown out of the window as bowlers have to mix it up and do different things each delivery in order to outfox the batsmen. Add into this the fact that Mitch is clearly a confidence player, and it becomes clear that seeing the ball fly over his head each delivery probably wouldn't put him in a good state mentally ahead of the test matches against India and New Zealand.
On top of that is the simple issue of fatigue - Mitch will be playing tests, ODIs and T20s away against Sri Lanka and South Africa (on two particularly tough tours) before doing the same against New Zealand and India. With so much cricket to be played, the last thing his body is going to want is to drag himself over to Perth to turn out for a franchise he doesn't care about in a format he's not too bothered about. Instead, he says he'll either go and rest up between the tests, or even go and play some grade cricket in order to get into a bit of rhythm ahead of the India series.
Mitchell Johnson does come in for a lot of stick, most of it justified, but here he's looked seriously at his career and decided that missing out on the big pay day will serve him far better than grabbing some quick cash. So I say good on'ya Mitch - it's great to see a player prioritising test cricket ahead of some pointless whack-it. And just make sure you're still wearing the Baggy Green for the England tour in 2013.