Aaron Johnson: Desert Cup Player Of The Tournament!

51, 84, 109*,0, 1, 89, 68. Those were Aaron Johnson’s recorded scores for his seven crease appearances during the recently concluded four-nation Desert Cup 2022 T20I Championship that was played in Oman from November 14-21. Johnson’s seven innings aggregate for the tournament was an impressive 402 runs. His average at 67.00 was simply staggering in terms of T20I norms. Not surprisingly, his performances with the bat deservedly earned Johnson Player Of The Tournament honours at the conclusion of the seven-day Championships.
What was even more impressive about Johnson’s performance was that his participation in Desert Cup 2022 was his very first overseas tour in Canadian colours. He’d made his Canadian international debut in a friendly match against Nepal that was played in Toronto earlier this summer but this was his first ever participation in a full tournament away from home.

With Navi Dhaliwal, the Canadian team’s usual captain and opening batsman having made himself unavailable for the Oman Tour, as well as the National squad’s forthcoming December-month participation in the Malaysia-hosted final round of the ICC’s Super League 2 World Cup Qualification, it was left to Johnson to shoulder the responsibility of getting Canada’s T20I innings off of to a flying start. And shoulder it he did in a breathtakingly aggressive manner that few might have imagined possible

When at the crease and firing at his very best, Johnson evokes memories of that most successful of all West Indies opening batsmen Gordon Cuthbert Greenidge. Very many of Johnson’s shots are indeed reminiscent of those Greenidge himself played during his illustrious career as an opening batsman for the West Indies, Barbados and England’s Hampshire County. A career which produced 7,558 runs in Tests, 5,134 in ODIs and 37,354 in First Class matches during its tenure which began in the early 70s and lasted until his official 1991 retirement.

One of Greenidge’s trademark shots, for which he became internationally famous, was a one-leg pull to the midwicket boundary for four, oftentimes even six. Johnson now plays that exact shot to the somewhat greater effect of often resulting in a six over the midwicket or backward square boundary rather than merely a four. Furthermore, he does so with absolute disdain, not even bothering to look to check on the eventual result of the shot. Such is his supreme confidence in both its timing and placement.

26 sixes and 43 fours. Those were the staggeringly unbelievable numbers for Johnson’s boundaries tally during the Oman Tour, which also included his participation in the last two of the three ODI matches Canada played against their Oman hosts.

With his consistency and devastating belligerence, Aaron Johnson has added a new dimension to Canada’s batting and importantly so at the very start of the innings. In Oman, Johnson had three different fellow team members as his opening partner. Srimantha Wijeyeratne, Matthew Spoors and Pargat Singh were all tried at various times by the Canadian team management. It didn’t seem to have any effect on Johnson as to who his opening batting partner was at the other end. He just went about his business, scoring runs with admirable consistency and at a rate which was at times breathtaking.

The T20I and ODI matches played by Johnson and his fellow Canadian teammates in Oman were scheduled as warmups for a far more important forthcoming assignment. Canada’s participation in the December Malaysia-hosted ICC’s Challenge League 2 third and final Round, the winner of which will move on to the next leg of qualification for the next October’s 2023 ODI World Cup to be held in India. All Canadian cricket fans and followers will now be hoping that Johnson’s demonstrated talents as an opening batsman will indeed again shine through in Malaysia. Sufficiently so as to enable Canada’s emergence as Challenge League 2 Final Round winners.

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