December 11, 2013

The post-Johnson jelly disorder

Here's one way to respond to a set of fans who boo and compose ditties for you: shatter stumps

"In a mood for breaking the world triple-jump record" © Getty Images

Previewing the third Test yesterday, George Bailey promised that the pitch at the WACA will have something for everyone. Fast bowlers with impressive moustaches will enjoy the shiny strip of bouncy concrete whereupon the cricket will be played. Spin bowlers can watch an entire Test match from the relaxed comfort of their dressing room, and batsmen will be able to take advantage of Western Australia's excellent medical facilities.

I understand that all leave has been cancelled at Perth General as staff brace themselves for an epidemic of cricket-ball related throat-injuries, wounded pride, badly bruised egos, PJJD (post-Johnson jelly disorder) and humble-pie overdoses.

Since I'm not taking part in it, however, I am thoroughly looking forward to the Perth Test. Hopefully, it will be Test cricket with the volume turned up to 11 and the safety catch removed, an outdoor festival of chin music with a thumping beat produced by a leather ball alternately clanking into a boundary board and clonking against a helmet.

There's no doubt about the headline act. If during the last three years, you've mentioned the word "Mitchell" and the word "Johnson" in the presence of an English cricket fan, you will probably have witnessed an unpleasant effect. First there is the slow dawning of a schoolboy grin, followed by a Beavis and Butthead style chuckle and, if you are particularly unlucky, the first few lines of the Noel Coward-esque Mitchell Johnson song.

I was at Edgbaston in the autumn, where Johnson was booed when he came on to bowl. Why? I have no idea. Is it now acceptable to boo someone because you don't think they are playing as well as they could? In which case, I look forward to the mass booing that must surely accompany the England players' entrance to the arrivals hall at Heathrow next year.

His resurgence does at least remind us that any professional cricketer who gets picked for a Test match is perched somewhere near the top of the talent tree, and that what we boo and cheer are merely trivial and temporary differences in form and confidence on the part of a collection of human beings who are all really rather good at what they do.

For this reason I feel some sympathy for English cricket journalists. They were dispatched to Australia on board HMS Flower to chronicle another glorious Ashes campaign, yet have been left staring at the appalling carnage of two distinctly un-glorious and rather massive setbacks. How to explain it?

Australia played better? That may be the truth, but editors are likely to demand something a little more apocalyptic, particularly if a couple of years back you were one of those journalists scribbling about Andy Flower's England being one of the greatest Test teams in the history of the universe. So how could they have fallen so far?

Well, obviously it's down to: burnout, fatigue, county cricket, a lack of fun, Graham Gooch's paunch, extra-curricular urination, too much planning, too little planning, the weather, batting technique, the weakness of the pound, the alignment of the planets, the decimation of the rain forests, the World Cup draw (delete as applicable).

Of course, those journalists who haven't spent the last four years composing odes to Flower will have an easier time of it. With home advantage, the fifth-ranked team in the world is currently beating the third-ranked team in the world. Not so dramatic, really.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here