Johnson relishing Bexhill captaincy

Malcolm Johnson is relishing the prospect of captaining Bexhill in the top flight of the Sussex Cricket League.

Thought to be the club’s youngest ever first team skipper, the 21-year-old has taken over from Chris Topp ahead of the 2012 season.

Johnson, pictured, said: “I’m looking forward to it. It’s always been a goal to captain Bexhill. I know all the youngsters and I think it will be a great opportunity.”

Topp will be heading off to New Zealand in April for a year’s teaching having guided Bexhill to promotion from Sussex Division Two last summer.

Johnson was Topp’s vice-captain last year and took the helm for some of the cup matches on Sundays. He also did a fair amount of captaincy at junior level.

Bexhill clinched an instant return to the Premier League courtesy of a dramatic runners-up finish in 2011 when they won seven of their last eight completed games.

They did so with a remarkably young side and Johnson says despite the jump in standard this summer, the club will be adopting a similar approach in 2012.

“We will be a young squad as usual,” he continued. “I think the oldest player is probably 24 and the youngest is 16. We all get on well and we enjoy our training.”

Staying in the Premier League has been notoriously difficult for promoted sides down the years as they find themselves playing a very high standard of cricket against clubs often fielding county professionals.

Bexhill last played in the Premier League in 2010 under the captaincy of new Sidley skipper John Haffenden. Despite Sussex and England spinner Monty Panesar making a handful of appearances, they were unable to stave off relegation.

Johnson went on: “I think four or five of us have been there already and if we can keep our heads, we will be alright. If you train hard, that’s when the rewards come.”

Although he has come up through Bexhill’s colts section, Johnson was actually born in Africa. He spent his first 10 years in Zimbabwe and still retains a twang in his speech.

With a grandmother living in this area, Johnson moved to England with his family in 2000, and went to St Peter & St Paul CofE Primary School, Bexhill High School and Bexhill College.

Throughout his education Johnson has always had a talent for cricket. The left-handed opening batsman has played for Sussex at under-15, under-17, academy and now second XI level.

Johnson only played a small number of Sussex second team games last season, but buoyed by a magnificent 132 against Glamorgan at Hove in August, his goal this year is to establish himself as a regular in the side.

“I hope Sussex offer me a contract,” he added, “but they’ve got such a strong squad and good youngsters as well so it’s going to be difficult. If Sussex don’t offer me a contract, I can always try different counties.”

Johnson has been Bexhill’s leading first XI runscorer for the last two years. He amassed 536 runs at an average of 53.6 with two 50s and two 100s last season, and 574 runs at 33.76 with three 50s and two 100s in 2010.

Bexhill’s second most prolific batsman in 2008 and 2009, Johnson spent last winter in Australia to further his cricketing education. But rain meant he only played seven matches in seven months for Souths in Mackay, North Queensland.

Malcolm isn’t the only cricketing talent, however, in the Johnson family. His 17-year-old brother Shawn played his part in Bexhill’s success last summer and other brother Gary has also played for the club’s front side in the past.

Of Shawn, Malcolm said: “I think he’s going to be better than me! He opened the bowling for us last year and bowled really well. He also bats in the middle order. He’s quite the package and hopefully he will get recognised by the county.”

Bexhill will begin their 2012 Sussex Premier League campaign with a trip to Brighton & Hove on Saturday May 5. Their first game at The Polegrove will be against neighbours Eastbourne a week later.