Johnson was guaranteed contract
Mitchell Johnson was never in danger of losing his Cricket Australia contract for 2012-13 because he already had one. On the day the players and the board said farewell to the old system of contracts and its various flaws, the last vestige of the Andrew Hilditch era was revealed to be a two-year deal for Johnson that carried over into the current period.
Johnson's appearance on a tight list of 17 players that featured neither the current Twenty20 captain George Bailey, nor the Test opener Ed Cowan, was considered a surprise to many, given his indifferent Test displays leading up to a serious injury that scuppered his home summer.
However the team performance manager, Pat Howard, explained that a primary reason behind Johnson's retention as a contract-holder was that in 2011 he had been granted two years by the former chairman of selectors Hilditch, his panel disbanded as part of the Argus review that also served as the genesis of the recalibrated contracts system.
"First off he was on a two-year contract, so he was already contracted, that gets around that issue," Howard said when asked about why Johnson had made it onto the far tighter CA contract list. "But he did play all the Tests in the lead-up to that period before his injury, and he did play across all three forms. So the reality is he got some ranking in all three forms.
"Without giving the opportunity to speak too largely without having the opportunity to sit down with the players individually, the selectors have gone through a fairly rigorous process in reviewing both where the player was and where they think the players will be."
John Inverarity, the national selector, indicated that Johnson may have been re-contracted anyway. "Look I think he would have," he said. "We have very high expectations that he will come back and come back extremely well. His record is very good. The consideration was that he already had a contract for this period. That was a given.
"We know how well he can bowl. That Test match against England in Perth when he got his action just right. It is in there somewhere, if we can provide the support and he can deliver than he is an outstanding player. Mitch has x-factor and of course he is also a very good No. 8 batsman. He is a talented cricketer. Now he has to perform. He is in the 17, he will need to perform and we hope he does."
As a mature-bodied fast bowler with a strong record of durability up to last November's unusual foot injury, Inverarity said that Johnson will also provide useful squad cover for a fast bowling ensemble that has grown increasingly deep, varied and skilful.
"The younger guys can't stand the workload of those that are 27, 28 years of age," Inverarity said. "With Pat Cummins, he is not going to play lots of consecutive Test matches. We need depth there and we want to bring on carefully James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. I think last summer for Mitchell [Starc] was about perfect."
Though seldom widely publicised, CA has for some years offered contracts of two or more years to their most bankable assets, commonly going to the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson. Howard said that four players, including Johnson, had held multi-year deals that carried over into the next 12 months, but he indicated that the clause represented a part of the previous regime.
"It's obviously become far tighter, far more difficult to get a contract, and that was the whole point of the Argus review to make it a little bit more stringent," Howard said. "But there's plenty of room to upgrade as they have in the past and from memory 13 players got upgraded last year, and we equally expect that sort of thing to occur in the next year, not just the Test players but ODI and T20 players as well."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here