NEW DELHI: After playing a crucial role in Australia’s World Cup victory, Mitchell Johnson is now training his eyes on the challenge of bowling to the fearsome AB de Villiers when Kings XI Punjab take on RCB in the eighth edition of Indian Premier League.

Johnson, who will once again spearhead the KXIP attack, termed De Villiers as the “best batsman across most formats” and someone who is a formidable opponent. 

“I think the most difficult batsman to bowl is AB de Villiers. He has been quite incredible in the last two years. He has excelled as the best player across most formats. For me it has always been a challenge to bowl to AB and a lot of guys love the challenge of bowling to him. Having said that, any quality batsman can have a good day in T20 format,” Johnson, who resumed training on Tuesday, said during an interaction. 

Johnson was all praise for Kings XI’s young Indian pacers Sandeep Sharma and Shardul Thakur, as the duo impressed him with their keenness “to learn” the art of fast bowling. 

“I played with Sandeep last year. It’s great to work with him as he keeps getting better and better. I saw Sandeep yesterday at the nets. He got some good pace going,” said the left-arm speedster. 

“What I like about Sandeep is that, he is an easy guy to work with. He listens to what I am saying as I find it important for a youngster to be able to listen to what a senior guy is saying. I am also impressed with new guy Shardul,” added Johnson, who has 283 Test wickets, 239 ODI scalps apart from 38 T20 victims. 

For one of world’s fastest bowlers, it is important to “talk to the youngsters and play a leading role” during the upcoming seven weeks of cash-rich league. 

Johnson feels that there isn’t much difference between bowling in ODIs and T20 cricket as “one format rolls into another” with the amount of international cricket that’s played these days. 

“I don’t think there would be any change of plans while switching from ODIs to T20 format. If you see, we played World Cup final a week ago and now we will be playing in the IPL and once it’s over, we will be switching to Test cricket in the West Indies. So it’s one format rolled into another. One needs to adjust very fast,” feels Johnson. 

For Johnson, “pace is important” as it can unsettle the best of batsmen if bowled in right areas. 

“I think if you are able to bowl 140 kmph plus and pitch it in right areas, it will be difficult for any batsman to face that type of delivery. Well the game has become fast and a lot of runs are being scored. 

“In these scenario, a fast bowler needs to be smart and have a lot of change-ups. He should be able to bowl the yorkers. In the end, it’s all about adapting to conditions,” said the tear-away quick, who took 15 wickets in nine World Cup games. 

The World Cup has witnessed totals of 300 plus many a times and Johnson is of the opinion that there will be more 200 plus scores in this edition of IPL. 

“I believe that there will be more exciting games this time with a bigger number of 200 plus totals. But one can’t underestimate the bowlers as they have become smarter.” 

Johnson smashed a quick-fire 9-ball-27 against India in the World Cup semi-final and he is “proud” that he was able to contribute with the willow. 

“I always work on my batting. We tail-enders worked on our batting and I am proud of that. I believe I was trying to do my job (vs India) lower down the order. I always play my natural game. Some days it works and somedays, it doesn’t,” said Johnson.

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