Mitchell Starc has been praised by fellow left-arm quick Spencer Johnson after a wonderful gesture for the 27-year-old cricket star, whose dream debut for Australia turned into a nightmare in 2023. Johnson featured in his first one-day international for Australia against India in September, when his pride and excitement soon turned to despair after suffering a torn right hamstring.
The incident in Indore marked the second time in three weeks that the paceman had aggravated the injury after making his T20 and ODI debuts for Australia in quick succession. Speaking ahead of Brisbane Heat's Big Bash League opener against the Melbourne Renegades on Thursday night, Johnson admits he was left shattered by the devastating injury setback.
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The 27-year-old revealed he was lying in his hotel room at the time - unable to sleep - when he received a message on his phone from Starc at 1am. The veteran fast bowler - who presented Johnson his Australia cap and has been an influential figure for the quick - implored the paceman to stay strong and reminded him about the incredible performances that earned him an international debut in the first place.
"Starcy gave me my ODI cap and there were some nice words said, but it is what he did after the game that I'll never forget," Johnson told AAP. "Unfortunately I did my hammie in that (debut) game (against India). I was staring at the ceiling at 1am and my phone lights up.
"Sure enough it was a message from Starcy saying, 'well done. You've had a a helluva 12 months. Be proud of what you've done and look for the silver lining when you get back to Australia and try and get yourself right'. To get a message like that was really helpful and pretty cool. Starcy is number one. I watched him for the last 12 years and tried to model my game around him."
Spencer Johnson hoping to kick on after superb 2023
Johnson earned his Australia call-up after a breakthrough debut season in the BBL in 2023, where his lethal accuracy bowling at the death became a highlight for the Heat's 27-year-old late bloomer. Injuries cruelled the majority of Johnson's earlier career but he seems well placed to start living up to the tag as Starc's eventual successor in white-ball cricket for Australia.
Johnson initially injured his hamstring at training in South Africa after he played in two T20 internationals for the green and gold. The first time it was only a minor grade one tear but the second injury to the hamstring was far more serious, resulting in some 10 weeks of rehabilitation since he returned home from India.
"We actually had a couple of PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injections where they take your blood from somewhere else, spin it and inject it straight back into the muscle strain," he said. "That was painful for a couple of weeks but the hammie is feeling good now. It should be right to go for the first BBL game."
Johnson will be hoping to replicate his debut season for the Heat with another string of stunning performances this season, as he aims to force his way into calculations for next year's T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies. "It is absolutely a goal. The Aussies had great success in India, winning the ODI World Cup, and I didn't miss a ball of it," Johnson enthused.
"Sitting on the couch watching was driving me to return...hopefully fit and performing well to be available to get picked next year. Last year I was an unknown and there was no real expectation. The Heat gave me a chance and I was thrown into those death overs and surge overs and that held me in really good stead for this year."
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