Johnson ready to cede Ashes leadership to veterans

SYDNEY: Paceman Mitchell Johnson insisted Thursday he would bear no grudges if veteran quicks Brett Lee or Stuart Clark returned to lead Australia's bowling attack during the Ashes series against England.

Johnson has impressed during Lee and Clark's injury-enforced absence, spearheading an inexperienced Australian bowling line up and marking himself as one of the world's best fast bowlers during this year's tour of South Africa.

But with Lee and Clark both named in the Ashes squad and itching for a chance to again clash with Australia's oldest cricketing rival, Johnson faces the prospect of being relegated down the pecking order.

He said there would be no ructions in the Australian camp if he had to cede the senior role.

"Those guys are the senior guys and they've got the experience and they've been around to earn their positions," he said.

"I'll be looking forward to those guys taking the leadership role and I'm not going to change anything in my game."

But the 27-year-old was also ready to lead the attack again if needed, saying he had grown confident in the role against South Africa after once believing he would not be able to handle it.

"In South Africa I had that leadership role and didn't change my game, I just tried to lead by example and things are going to be the same over in England hopefully," he said.

Johnson enthusiastically welcomed captain Ricky Ponting's call to put pressure on England skipper Andrew Strauss in the hope that if he was contained the rest of the side would crumble.

He believed his left-arm swing bowling had the potential to be effective against the left-handed Strauss in English conditions.

"Over in South Africa I started to swing the ball and (Strauss) being a left handed batsman, it will go away from him," he said.

"I like bowling to lefties so that's something that I'm looking forward to.

"It's going to be a great challenge and he's been scoring a few runs but hopefully we can put a bit of pressure on him and maybe their side will follow."

Strauss this week shrugged off Australia's pre-Ashes mind games, saying he was unperturbed at being targeted.

"I don't mind that," he said. "It's something you expect from the Australians, but it's not something we're going to spend a lot of time concentrating on."

The Ashes gets underway on July 8 when Cardiff stages its first Test with Australia.

England won their last Ashes series on home soil 2-1 in 2005 but endured a 5-0 whitewash in the most recent clash in Australia in 2006-2007.