Mitchell Johnson July 4, 2012

The Johnson conundrum

Mitch: he's you, he's me, he's every one of us
24

Sunday, 1st July I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way, but there is something of the stone age about Mitchell Johnson. His run-up reminds me of a caveman in vigorous pursuit of a woolly mammoth, charging across the savannah to fling a small leather ball with all his might in the vague direction of his quarry before the long trudge back to explain to the Johnson tribe that it’s roots and berries for dinner again.

In a world of laser-guided, hi-tech bowling weapons, Johnson is the 16th century blunderbuss, elaborately decorated and liable to go off in any direction. He is the ultimate luxury bowler, as extravagantly useless as a chocolate coffee maker and as profligate as an investment banker after his second bottle of Bollinger. Once again he’s been bailed out by Cricket Australia, but the public’s patience is wearing thin and the Serious Bowling Fraud Office may soon be in touch.

So why am I a fan? Well, imagine finding six unmarked envelopes pop through your letter box. You open the first five and they’re all bills. Then you find that the sixth one contains a $50 dollar note, a hand-written apology from the chairman of the gas company and an uplifting poem. That’s how it is when you watch Mitch. There’s roughly an 83% chance that what transpires upon his releasing the ball will be face-palm worthy. But occasionally, just occasionally, he produces a snorter.

And perhaps it’s because he reminds us of ourselves. If the standard professional bowler is a finely tuned machine, then most of us are like experimental Edwardian steam-powered bowling contraptions arriving at the crease with limbs flailing and no guarantee that the ball will land within an acre of where we fondly imagine we were aiming.

Yet just occasionally, perhaps one time in 30, instead of sailing through the living room window or thudding into the turf at our feet, the ball, as if guided by the cricket gods, does what we want it to do. Our legbreak lands on leg and fizzes past off. Our yorker screams to the base of middle stump and sends it cartwheeling backwards. Even if our next 20 deliveries are filth - and let’s face it, they probably will be - for a few moments we feel like Shane Warne or Michael Holding, or at the very least, Martin McCague.

But if you’re unfortunate enough to be an international cricket captain, what do you do with the occasionally brilliant bowler? Do you try to take him apart and reassemble him, with the risk that in messing with the machinery you might lose the wonky screw that made the whole thing work in the first place? Or do you take the inept with the inspired, accept that economy rates are for wimps, take a deep breath and write Johnson, M on the team sheet?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • spn on July 6, 2012, 2:51 GMT

    Great stuff andrew. the first para had me in tears.

    How about a team of talent laden international underachievers:

    Ramrakash Hick Hookes Johnson

    ?? etc

    Who would be captain?

  • hasan on July 5, 2012, 3:54 GMT

    Even after all what has transpired in recent memory and availability of endless competent fast bowling alternates in the Aussie camp, i still think he is Australia's best bet for picking wickets. Plus, he being a left armer who can swing the ball back into the right handed batters make him, in this era of ordinary bowlers, an absolute goldmine. He is just a bit short on confidence as he has just returned from injury, but i am sure one good show will change all that and then he will start producing the results that Clarke expects of him. In my opinion, Clarke wont mind his unpredictibility and waywardness, as far as he keeps on producing those wicket taking snorters.

  • Racheed Mani on July 5, 2012, 3:53 GMT

    Very amusing article, and most of it is spot on. However, it is still a bit harsh on Mitch, as looking at the 2nd ODI, he actually bowled a pretty decent line, at over 90mph, however, what let him down was his discipline, with those preventable no-balls. Give him a chance, because on his day, he can absolutely rip his opposition to shreds. There's too much ability in what is a great cricketer for him to be struggling the way he is. Only hope he can get back to the form he had in 2008-09.

  • Concerned Reader on July 5, 2012, 3:10 GMT

    And the point of this article is???

  • Daniel on July 5, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    This is an interesting take on Mitchell Johnson. Personally I think he isn't up the standard required for international cricket. He had that one amazing test series in South Africa where he took lots of wickets and scored a couple of test hundreds with the bat, but since then he has been very disappointing.

    You wrote about how how he might bowl 29 poor deliveries, and then 1 amazing ball that takes a wicket. This is precisely the reason why he shouldn't play test cricket, because all the bad deliveries make it harder for the bowler at the other end. Remember with McGrath, people would always talk about how he built up so much pressure that the other bowler, Warne or Gillespie, would take all the wickets?

    There's no pressure for the batsman to score against the other bowler when they can hit two boundaries an over against Johnson.

  • ronnie on July 5, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    mj should b used as an allrounder. bat him at 6 or 7.it would take the pressure off his bowling.he will win games with bat or ball.cmon selectors.go mitch.

  • techie on July 4, 2012, 17:30 GMT

    Hi andrew, whats ur take on doug bollinger? seems to have a good first class record as well as test/odi stats. i'm surprised why he is consistently overlooked.

  • Anonymous on July 4, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Hahahaha hilarious

  • Miten on July 4, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    I say screw economy rates and let Mitchell rip. I'm in it for the entertainment and he sure as hell entertains.

  • Chris on July 4, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Nice piece, but Australia cant carry this bloke anymore. England are laughing in they're boots. They want us to pick him. Drop him he is rubbish, he bats better than he bowls for heavens sake!

  • spn on July 6, 2012, 2:51 GMT

    Great stuff andrew. the first para had me in tears.

    How about a team of talent laden international underachievers:

    Ramrakash Hick Hookes Johnson

    ?? etc

    Who would be captain?

  • hasan on July 5, 2012, 3:54 GMT

    Even after all what has transpired in recent memory and availability of endless competent fast bowling alternates in the Aussie camp, i still think he is Australia's best bet for picking wickets. Plus, he being a left armer who can swing the ball back into the right handed batters make him, in this era of ordinary bowlers, an absolute goldmine. He is just a bit short on confidence as he has just returned from injury, but i am sure one good show will change all that and then he will start producing the results that Clarke expects of him. In my opinion, Clarke wont mind his unpredictibility and waywardness, as far as he keeps on producing those wicket taking snorters.

  • Racheed Mani on July 5, 2012, 3:53 GMT

    Very amusing article, and most of it is spot on. However, it is still a bit harsh on Mitch, as looking at the 2nd ODI, he actually bowled a pretty decent line, at over 90mph, however, what let him down was his discipline, with those preventable no-balls. Give him a chance, because on his day, he can absolutely rip his opposition to shreds. There's too much ability in what is a great cricketer for him to be struggling the way he is. Only hope he can get back to the form he had in 2008-09.

  • Concerned Reader on July 5, 2012, 3:10 GMT

    And the point of this article is???

  • Daniel on July 5, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    This is an interesting take on Mitchell Johnson. Personally I think he isn't up the standard required for international cricket. He had that one amazing test series in South Africa where he took lots of wickets and scored a couple of test hundreds with the bat, but since then he has been very disappointing.

    You wrote about how how he might bowl 29 poor deliveries, and then 1 amazing ball that takes a wicket. This is precisely the reason why he shouldn't play test cricket, because all the bad deliveries make it harder for the bowler at the other end. Remember with McGrath, people would always talk about how he built up so much pressure that the other bowler, Warne or Gillespie, would take all the wickets?

    There's no pressure for the batsman to score against the other bowler when they can hit two boundaries an over against Johnson.

  • ronnie on July 5, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    mj should b used as an allrounder. bat him at 6 or 7.it would take the pressure off his bowling.he will win games with bat or ball.cmon selectors.go mitch.

  • techie on July 4, 2012, 17:30 GMT

    Hi andrew, whats ur take on doug bollinger? seems to have a good first class record as well as test/odi stats. i'm surprised why he is consistently overlooked.

  • Anonymous on July 4, 2012, 16:59 GMT

    Hahahaha hilarious

  • Miten on July 4, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    I say screw economy rates and let Mitchell rip. I'm in it for the entertainment and he sure as hell entertains.

  • Chris on July 4, 2012, 15:45 GMT

    Nice piece, but Australia cant carry this bloke anymore. England are laughing in they're boots. They want us to pick him. Drop him he is rubbish, he bats better than he bowls for heavens sake!

  • Alexandria on July 4, 2012, 15:35 GMT

    if genuine quick bowlers also had accuracy fast medium bowlers would be a thing of the past they normally are expensive look at the likes of devon malcolm.

    there are a few that have had accuracy but you are talking about the greatest ever

    Colin Croft was accurate to the throat but that was all he was accurate to

    Nantie Hayward was quick but he bowled some dross

    its harder to be accurate bowling at 90 plus you will always have less control

  • spn on July 4, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    Another belter andrew. The first paragraph had me in tears of laughter. And im australian.

  • Praxis on July 4, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Hilarious! "...the long trudge back to explain to the Johnson tribe that it’s roots and berries for dinner again."

    Thanks Mr. Hughes, your new blog brightened up an otherwise depressing day.

  • ankur on July 4, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    Andrew, I have recently started reading your blogs & you know what, add me to your fanlist. Keep up the good ( funny) work & feed us at least one blog every 3 days.

  • Lawson Kirkpatrick on July 4, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Delightfully funny, and having, for many years, watched Mitch bowl I would be glad to see him again in full flight and giving our batsmen a contest.

    Keep it up.

  • Fred on July 4, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    The caveman picture you painted in my head has me in splits! He has the eyebrows of a cavemen to boot!

    The picture caption was also hilarious.

  • Theena on July 4, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Create a new cricket team, the Underachievers XI, pick Mitch and Dilhara Fernando as the new ball partners. Between the latter's constant overstepping problem - to say nothing about his grunt at delivery point - possibly a result of him going 'OH LORD, WHERE GOES THIS ORB? - and the former's scatter gun radar, we are likely to get the McDonald's of fast-bowling.

    Dilhara too delivers some snorters once in a while though they've reduced in frequency now. I remember in 2000, he delivered a bouncer to Kallis that had everyone gasping. I've never seen Kallis look that out of position and defenseless before or since.

  • Brett MacKenzie on July 4, 2012, 12:05 GMT

    I spend far too long avoiding work while I wander aimlessly through cricinfo. This offering , however, was more than worth it.

  • Jack on July 4, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    Very nice read.

    I'd say, you gotta risk it to get the biscuit, or in this case the trophy. I like the unexpectedness of Johnson, I want him in the team.

  • Henry on July 4, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Like the last part - "take a deep breath and write Johnson, M on the team sheet?" Lol

  • diz on July 4, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Your opening paragraph is absolutely hilarious! However as an Australian cricket fan the romance for his unpredictability died after the first 2 years of his service. I have no time for bowlers who cant keep an upright seam position at international level, something that you learn in primary school.

  • Vishwajeet on July 4, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Andrew..... you are simply best in the business by far. People like to bring in zaltzman in the discussion. I try to be objective and read his article to see if the comparison is legit. Not even close. The freedom with which you write ..... the ideas that flow.... its an inspiration to be the best in my own trade. Keep the good work going.... We need you to keep doing ur stuff .... you have an obligation to humanity... atleast the one's on cricinfo

  • Ray on July 4, 2012, 9:29 GMT

    hahaha... classic from Hughes!

  • Andrew on July 4, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    You drop him like a stone, that's what you do. Great article, but as an Aussie, I'd rather shoot Johnson than pick him.

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  • Andrew on July 4, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    You drop him like a stone, that's what you do. Great article, but as an Aussie, I'd rather shoot Johnson than pick him.

  • Ray on July 4, 2012, 9:29 GMT

    hahaha... classic from Hughes!

  • Vishwajeet on July 4, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Andrew..... you are simply best in the business by far. People like to bring in zaltzman in the discussion. I try to be objective and read his article to see if the comparison is legit. Not even close. The freedom with which you write ..... the ideas that flow.... its an inspiration to be the best in my own trade. Keep the good work going.... We need you to keep doing ur stuff .... you have an obligation to humanity... atleast the one's on cricinfo

  • diz on July 4, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Your opening paragraph is absolutely hilarious! However as an Australian cricket fan the romance for his unpredictability died after the first 2 years of his service. I have no time for bowlers who cant keep an upright seam position at international level, something that you learn in primary school.

  • Henry on July 4, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    Like the last part - "take a deep breath and write Johnson, M on the team sheet?" Lol

  • Jack on July 4, 2012, 11:45 GMT

    Very nice read.

    I'd say, you gotta risk it to get the biscuit, or in this case the trophy. I like the unexpectedness of Johnson, I want him in the team.

  • Brett MacKenzie on July 4, 2012, 12:05 GMT

    I spend far too long avoiding work while I wander aimlessly through cricinfo. This offering , however, was more than worth it.

  • Theena on July 4, 2012, 12:22 GMT

    Create a new cricket team, the Underachievers XI, pick Mitch and Dilhara Fernando as the new ball partners. Between the latter's constant overstepping problem - to say nothing about his grunt at delivery point - possibly a result of him going 'OH LORD, WHERE GOES THIS ORB? - and the former's scatter gun radar, we are likely to get the McDonald's of fast-bowling.

    Dilhara too delivers some snorters once in a while though they've reduced in frequency now. I remember in 2000, he delivered a bouncer to Kallis that had everyone gasping. I've never seen Kallis look that out of position and defenseless before or since.

  • Fred on July 4, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    The caveman picture you painted in my head has me in splits! He has the eyebrows of a cavemen to boot!

    The picture caption was also hilarious.

  • Lawson Kirkpatrick on July 4, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Delightfully funny, and having, for many years, watched Mitch bowl I would be glad to see him again in full flight and giving our batsmen a contest.

    Keep it up.