Johnson retires from international cricket
As he foreshadowed before the WACA Test against New Zealand, Mitchell Johnson has had enough.
In the lead-up to the match, Johnson said he was happy to keep playing "as long as I'm performing well and doing my job in the team then mentally I'm feeling pretty good", but this week, Johnson has been conclusively tamed by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, returning the figures of 1 for 157, the most expensive by an Australian bowler in all Tests in Perth.
His manager Sam Halvorsen was in the Australian dressing rooms on the fourth evening, as Johnson reached the painful decision to end his Test playing days. He conceded afterwards that he was quite simply no longer enjoying the hard days in the field epitomised by this match, the fourth highest scoring Test ever to be played in Australia
"I'm really happy with my decision and I just lost that hunger in the end to play out on those tough days, that's where my decision came," Johnson said, watched by his wife Jessica, captain Steven Smith, and teammates Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon. "That's something I used to really enjoy about Test cricket, the challenge of those really difficult days out there and I just wasn't enjoying it out there.
"The first innings bowling was my final decision. Spoke to Jess my wife about it and my manager Sam and Smithy and Boof and spoke to the boys and let them know last night that I was finishing up in all forms. It's something I've been thinking about for a year now to be honest, on and off. The World Cup I thought that was a good time to go out in one day cricket but also with young guys in the team I also felt like I could help them through. But ultimately I felt like I couldn't compete at this level any more and lost that hunger."
Johnson's retirement rounds out a sequence of six exits from the national team around this year's unsuccessful defence of the Ashes in England. Ryan Harris, Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin all left the stage before the home summer, and Johnson had admitted to thinking about joining them, only committing fully to playing a few weeks before the season began.
He admitted he had spoken at length with his mentor Dennis Lillee about his future during that period, and while his mentor felt it was possible to keep going for several more seasons at reduced pace while concentrating on consistency and movement, the 34-year-old pushed back with the view that he had been born to bowl fast, and would not enjoy the game if he could not.
"I spoke to him in the six weeks I had home before this series and he said I at least had another three or four more years left in me," Johnson said. "Not bowling at 150kph but doing similar to what he did. Just bowling at that lower pace but doing something a bit more with the ball but at the back of my mind I was thinking I only want to bowl fast - that's how I've bowled my whole career.
"That was something I remember Brett Lee talking about before his retirement. He said basically he just wanted to bowl fast and if he ever got to the point where he couldn't bowl fast than he was done as well, so I felt like I was on that wave length as well, but we had a pretty good discussion about it. I sent him a message this morning and he's been a huge part of my career."
A shattering event in Australian cricket, the death of Phillip Hughes last year also weighed heavily on Johnson, while he also found himself bowling on pitches far less lively than those he had been helped by in previous summers. "Definitely there was a part of me that struggled after Phillip's death and probably affected me for a long time and probably still does," he said. "But the final decision was more just the hunger and those tough days I didn't want to be there.
"That's not very fair on the team and that's how I play cricket, I always play 100%. Really happy and proud I was able to go out there and finish off really well and having that weight lifted off your shoulders and just go out there and have fun and cherish the moment.
"Wickets are definitely getting harder and harder and flatter but it might have played a little part day in and day out, some days you feel like a bowling machine. But I really did enjoy the challenge even though sometimes it felt like an unfair advantage to batters. Never complained about it, and always gave it 100 per cent."
Johnson has played 73 Tests, claiming 311 wickets for Australia, behind only Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Dennis Lillee. He was the key figure in Australia's 5-0 Ashes sweep in 2013-14, claiming a staggering 37 wickets across the five Tests and leaving an indelible mark with his pace and intimidation.
"That was definitely a huge moment in my career and it's something that I guess I would have had regrets if I hadn't come back from there," he said. "I spoke to my wife about it and something I really wanted to work hard on coming back into the team and I really enjoyed that challenge and it really made me excited about playing cricket and coming back from injury [in 2011-12] and working really hard and I guess testing myself.
"I felt like I hadn't given my best at that stage in my career and felt like I had a lot to give. The last couple of years were really exciting for me and just became really confident in my ability and in my action. Learn to become more comfortable in myself. Wasn't content but just knew what I needed to do and what it took to be your best. It was an exciting time throughout my career and something I will always cherish and always have those memories."
A follow-up performance in South Africa further enhanced Johnson's reputation as one of the most frightening fast bowlers to have played the game, but his returns have trailed off gradually since, and after struggling for impact in the two Tests of this series against New Zealand he has decided to finish - doing so before the inaugural day/night Test in Adelaide, a concept he has been notably sceptical about.
His decision has also coincided with the maturing of Mitchell Starc, who has developed consistency to go with his pace and swing and has notably outdone his more senior left-arm paceman at the WACA Ground. The dual use of Starc and Johnson in the same attack has been a source of considerable selection angst for several years, no more so than against England when they struggled for role definition as two strike bowlers in a four-man attack.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig