Happy times: Left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
MITCHELL Johnson is back. Not just in the one-day squad and not just in the mix for the World Twenty20, but ''certainly, absolutely'' in contention to resume his Test career.
The emergence of a consistent, relentless pack of Test quicks during Johnson's six-month absence with a foot injury led many to conclude there was no way back for the left-arm paceman, whose wayward episodes meant he was close to being dropped when he got injured.
But Johnson, 30, will join Pat Cummins and James Pattinson in the ODI and Australia A squads to tour England, and may leave the A tour early to prepare for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
The selectors remain wary about the fitness of the exciting young pace pair, and cannot shake the vision of Johnson tearing through England's batsmen in Perth two summers ago when the stars aligned to produce dangerous inswing and pace.
National selector John Inverarity believes Johnson can regain those powers and, asked whether he could get back into the Test team, said ''certainly, absolutely''.
''I think there's a strong chance Johnson will really come back,'' he said. ''I've seen him two or three times in the nets. You saw him bowl in Perth in that Test where he wasn't throwing the kitchen sink at it, that's how he was bowling, cruising but at very good pace. He might lose it in a game but he is certainly looking good.
''He's had six or seven months to reflect … He sought out Dennis Lillee, who had injuries and wasn't the same bowler when he was 32 as he was when he was 25, he went through that transition. Let's hope he does [come back] because I think he is a very important player.''
Johnson is not the only player returning. Cummins has been sidelined with a bone stress injury in his foot since November, while Steve Smith - a reserve batsman in the ODI squad - last played for Australia on the same South African tour.
Batsman Peter Forrest was not picked but Inverarity said the selectors were delighted with his progress.