Australia in England 2012 July 9, 2012

Johnson talks of renewed heart and vigour

Mitchell Johnson, Australia's enigmatic fast bowler, has spoken of rejuvenated confidence and drive inspired by a seven-month break from the international game.
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Australia's response to the challenge placed before them by their infuriated coach Mickey Arthur may be measured at Old Trafford by the performance of the famously enigmatic Mitchell Johnson. On his first tour since a foot injury ruled him out of the last Australian summer, Johnson made an unsteady return to the international bowling crease at the Oval, but has spoken of rejuvenated confidence and drive inspired by a seven-month break from the international game.

When Arthur sat down each member of the team in the Chester-le-Street dressing room and exhorted them to play with greater presence and confidence in the final match of a series lost 3-0 to England, Johnson nodded in assent and recognised that he had a key role to play.

He might not always have done that in the past, when matters far less pointed than a dressing down from the coach would get to him. It remains to be seen whether Johnson has completely ridded himself of the capacity to be distracted by events away from the middle, but he is at least talking the right game.

"I thought it was spot-on with what he said," Johnson said of Arthur. "We had to sit right in front of him and he just laid it out truthfully and honestly. I think that's a great trait for a coach. From where I'm sitting it was nice to hear that and something a lot of the guys were probably thinking anyway, so to hear it from the coach - we definitely needed that.

"It's more about body language; even if you've bowled a bad ball you've got to have that body language there, you don't want to give them any inch that you've bowled a bad ball or you're not feeling at your best. That's something I've learned over time. I felt like I was starting to get involved a bit more at the Oval. Bowling those no-balls I felt a bit down, but I probably didn't show it like I have in the past, slumped shoulders and head down. I kept on going."

The ability to keep going was for a time Johnson's greatest asset, as he remained Australia's most durable fast bowler through a deeply unsettled period. From his Test debut in Brisbane in 2007 to the Johannesburg Test in November 2011, Johnson played 47 of a possible 48 Test matches, only the 2010 Adelaide Ashes Test in which he was dropped. This sequence served to drain Johnson of enthusiasm and belief. He spoke of the Johannesburg injury as a relief rather than a setback.

"I just wasn't sure where I was going," Johnson said. "If I hadn't got the injury and let's just say I got picked on the next trip - because there was concern that I wasn't going to get picked - I don't think anything would have changed in my performances. I don't think I would have retired but I definitely would have stepped away from it a little bit. Before my injury I wasn't confident and didn't believe in myself.

"The first two months away from it I didn't miss the game at all. I'd spoken to one of the coaching staff and said: 'I'm just not interested in it.' I was just chilling out at home and with friends. I'm happy with my life now outside of cricket as well. I'm enjoying being back in the side. I'm just not stressed about too many things anymore."

Another element of his span in the Australian team before the injury was the slow, painful slide in the team's results. Johnson's enthusiasm was switched back on by the sight of watching the team winning against India, enjoying the adulation of home crowds where the summer before against England they had been ridiculed. Reminded of how much fun the game could be, he wanted back in.

"I started watching a few more games here and there and guys were performing well, and I think that snapped me out of it a little bit," Johnson said. "It was good just to have people off our backs as well, as a team. We've copped a fair bit in recent times."

Ironically, Johnson's renewed pursuit of an Australian place has come in England, where he has been reunited with the fans who goaded him unmercifully both in 2009 and in Australia in 2010-11. He was surprised he did not receive more stick at The Oval when his no-balls released any pressure created by an otherwise disciplined line.

"It's a bit of a compliment in a way. They wouldn't put so much crap on me if they weren't threatened," Johnson said. "That's how I see it. I think they know that when I'm on, it's going to be tough for their side. You can get caught up in it sometimes, singing their songs. I was copping it in Durham and I wasn't even playing. I could hear them over the other side of the ground.

"I just laugh about it now. You can't let it affect you. It really does mean nothing. They're trying to put you off your game and that's it. It'd be nice to go out there and win this last game and not necessarily rub it in their face but show that we're competitive and that when we do come back here next year we're going to put on a show for them."

The question of how Johnson fits back into the Australian team is an open one. His peaks and troughs as a bowler are infamous, running the gamut from his unplayable displays in South Africa in 2009 and in Perth against England in 2010 to the depths he slid to against England at Lord's in 2009, when he was distracted by the airing of family problems in the press.

Given the success and consistency the Test team have enjoyed without Johnson, it is difficult to see him resuming in the five-day game unless a surfeit of injuries opens up a place. In acknowledgement of the fact he had drifted at times in the past, Johnson is now working much more assiduously at training, more aware of his field settings and concentrating on his most positive thoughts.

"Belief and confidence are a huge part of how I'm feeling at the moment. I'm thinking a little more about my bowling with training sessions as well, like making sure I know where my field is when I'm bowling in the nets because I've gone into net sessions where someone will hit a good shot and I'd think 'bugger, he's probably hit that for four' without knowing where my field is.

"That's one thing that's worked for me, knowing what field I've got in the net session. It's really simple things that are working for me, and just having my cues that keep me relaxed and keep that body language up. What is really good at the moment with our bowling group is we've got guys who've got the experience now, so they know what it's like at the top level.

"There was a time there when Brett Lee was gone I had to take over the reins and there was Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, we hadn't really played a lot of cricket together or at the highest level. We're going in the right direction, now it's up to performances and putting the right squads together."

More important to Johnson than any team permutations or training stratagems, however, is the acknowledgement that he is a confidence player. He now knows he has to get himself into the right mind frame if he is to perform, irrespective of where his front arm, left shoulder and wrist are positioned.

"There's been a lot of talk about my technical faults," he said. "It is more of a mental game for me I think, the crowds, conditions, it all plays a big part - and I am in the right frame of mind.

"It's about belief and confidence in yourself, and that's something I've gained being away from cricket because I was in a period before my injury where I wasn't confident. Look at the England side and look at Ian Bell, the amount of confidence he shows out on the paddock, from what it was two years ago; Alastair Cook as well. We can learn from the English in a way."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • del_ on July 11, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    How selfish is he?!?! Didn't want to play when we weren't going well and now wants back when the test team has had a few wins.

  • Fifthman on July 11, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    Looks like the Oz selectors read some of the comments on here before the 4th ODI and didn't even bother picking him. All you can say is that the margin of victory for England would have been even greater with Mitch in the Oz side. The continuing MJ saga is compulsive viewing in a slowed-down car crash kind of way...

  • hyclass on July 11, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    I yearn for the days when the players didn't spend half their career self promoting and the rest with their feet stuck firmly in their mouths.Its embarrassing for everyone concerned.I don't recollect the last time any of them backed up a single statement with actual results.Warner was out sweeping at the 2nd string spinner in Tredwell with a regular sweep.One wonders how he would have fared against Swann with a reverse sweep.Of course he didn't bat long enough in the other games for anyone to find out.The hype machine has been at it for years without anything of quality to show for it.The Test matches played by Australia have given a badly misleading picture of Australias true position and England have exposed it dramatically.Australia last played SA after that team had not played long form cricket for some time and were lacking 5 day match fitness.The SL attack was statistically the worlds weakest on flat pitches.The India series was decided before it began.India had no attack at all.

  • Partyman on July 10, 2012, 20:26 GMT

    I did not understand anything he said. Utter gibberish. His interview was as tripe as his bowling.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:28 GMT

    Johnson is like Fernando. 1 good day 9 off days.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    I remember how POMS were poor against WI back in 80's, But I have never seen Aussie were so poor before.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:09 GMT

    Mitchel can bat soon as he is very hungry. Is he hungry to ball more no-balls.

  • PutMarshyOn on July 10, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    Hard to disagree with the comments here. I reckon there are just too many things to go wrong with his action for him ever to be a consistent threat.

    I have to wonder about the coaching he's had - what is radical about landing the ball seam up more often than not?

    It really isn't all about body language Mitch. It's about results.

  • MartinC on July 10, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    With the results the Aussies have had over here a bit less talking and a bit more doing would be in order. Johnson can be a dangerous bowler on his day - but those days have been far and few between over the last couple of years.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 10, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    Seriously, It remains to be seen if hes back, and it certainly sounds like a player that is trying to convince himself that there isnt a problem. MJ's problem is all in his head, adn he over corrects when things arnt going right for him hence the 'Bowls to the left, bowls to the right' song that originated in the 10/11 Ashes, I'm sure the england fans wil rectify that a long with 'The Johnson family'

  • del_ on July 11, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    How selfish is he?!?! Didn't want to play when we weren't going well and now wants back when the test team has had a few wins.

  • Fifthman on July 11, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    Looks like the Oz selectors read some of the comments on here before the 4th ODI and didn't even bother picking him. All you can say is that the margin of victory for England would have been even greater with Mitch in the Oz side. The continuing MJ saga is compulsive viewing in a slowed-down car crash kind of way...

  • hyclass on July 11, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    I yearn for the days when the players didn't spend half their career self promoting and the rest with their feet stuck firmly in their mouths.Its embarrassing for everyone concerned.I don't recollect the last time any of them backed up a single statement with actual results.Warner was out sweeping at the 2nd string spinner in Tredwell with a regular sweep.One wonders how he would have fared against Swann with a reverse sweep.Of course he didn't bat long enough in the other games for anyone to find out.The hype machine has been at it for years without anything of quality to show for it.The Test matches played by Australia have given a badly misleading picture of Australias true position and England have exposed it dramatically.Australia last played SA after that team had not played long form cricket for some time and were lacking 5 day match fitness.The SL attack was statistically the worlds weakest on flat pitches.The India series was decided before it began.India had no attack at all.

  • Partyman on July 10, 2012, 20:26 GMT

    I did not understand anything he said. Utter gibberish. His interview was as tripe as his bowling.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:28 GMT

    Johnson is like Fernando. 1 good day 9 off days.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    I remember how POMS were poor against WI back in 80's, But I have never seen Aussie were so poor before.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on July 10, 2012, 18:09 GMT

    Mitchel can bat soon as he is very hungry. Is he hungry to ball more no-balls.

  • PutMarshyOn on July 10, 2012, 16:08 GMT

    Hard to disagree with the comments here. I reckon there are just too many things to go wrong with his action for him ever to be a consistent threat.

    I have to wonder about the coaching he's had - what is radical about landing the ball seam up more often than not?

    It really isn't all about body language Mitch. It's about results.

  • MartinC on July 10, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    With the results the Aussies have had over here a bit less talking and a bit more doing would be in order. Johnson can be a dangerous bowler on his day - but those days have been far and few between over the last couple of years.

  • YorkshirePudding on July 10, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    Seriously, It remains to be seen if hes back, and it certainly sounds like a player that is trying to convince himself that there isnt a problem. MJ's problem is all in his head, adn he over corrects when things arnt going right for him hence the 'Bowls to the left, bowls to the right' song that originated in the 10/11 Ashes, I'm sure the england fans wil rectify that a long with 'The Johnson family'

  • on July 10, 2012, 11:42 GMT

    He's lost it and will never get it back. We don't need our version of Harmison anymore. Fade away Mitch. Please.

  • Aristotle01 on July 10, 2012, 11:15 GMT

    Probably one of the worst cricketers along with ricky ponting.

  • Stark62 on July 10, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Basically, his back to break the world record for the most wides bowled by a bowler, the longest over bowled, the most runs conceded via extras and giving away the most amount of runs in a single over!!

    @ puroniks I agree with your list but with the exception of Cummins and Pattinson. Fernando should be added to that list, along with Sreesanth and Vinay Kumar.

  • Wozza-CY on July 10, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    Ummmm....how about taking six wickets in the innings before declaring your 'back'! I have to say I'm astounded at some of the rhetoric that comes out of the Ozi camp these days, truly bemused at their dellusion!

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on July 10, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    Back he indeed is. Bowling to the left, bowling to the right... :) Maybe the reason he's feeling confident because he's bowling to the Australian batsmen..wait..that'll be it.

  • danmcb on July 10, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    Mitch is one of those guys who ought to just not talk about it, shut up and do it. Whenever he opens his mouth you just can't help having "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" in the back of your mind.

  • Selassie-I on July 10, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    Randy mate, that's why we love him so in England! He's a bit like steve harmisson where beacuse he bowls short of a length, as soon as his line goes a bit then he's in trouble. he gets lateral movement so maybe he could learn from broad and start to pitch it up a bit, he doesn't seem to work extra bounce too much.

  • mikeyp147 on July 10, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    "I just laugh about it now. You can't let it affect you. It really does mean nothing."

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks. I'm not particularly a fan of the way the English fans have singled him out for so much merciless p1ss-taking, but there really is only one way to shut them up, which is to take wickets and stop bowling so much filth. It clearly DOES affect him, and they know that.

  • fitzy99 on July 10, 2012, 10:03 GMT

    Agree with the other posts.Talk is cheap.Confidence can only come from bowling well,building pressure and taking wickets.It's not something that you convince yourself of without any justiication

  • kickittome70 on July 10, 2012, 9:56 GMT

    How they picked MG Johnson over Pattinson in the 4th ODI is beyond me? Watching Johnson bowl is like taking a mate from work down to your clubs training session after he has pestered you and told you how good he is, only to find out he's hopeless. Thats the story of our Mitch. When the moment arrives, his talent deserts him.

  • satish619chandar on July 10, 2012, 9:45 GMT

    He was decent im limited overs without being threatening.. I would still continue in limited overs but he is far from being picked for tests.. Aussies do have some better choices than Mitch..

  • bantersaurus on July 10, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    I look forward to seeing Johnson back to his best because we all know his best is the best in the world. I believe he will get there after a good 3 months on the domestic scene and rejoining the Aussie set up. I agree he is not the best option right now but I can see their reasoning in having him on the tour because he is a match winner when firing and Australia need him bowling 1st change and batting 8.

  • Timmuh on July 10, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    He's back? Dear God, no! Back in club cricket would be a better move.

  • goodhoot on July 10, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    You can't say I'm back until you start taking regular wickets and delivering what you've long promised.13 test wickets in 2011 is'nt good enough to be considered a test regular,time to put the score on the board Mitchell Johnson,Pattinson and Cummins are coming on well,once bigger and stronger and getting overs under their belts,you're going to look over the hill at 30yo

  • Aristotle01 on July 10, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    He has to be the worse bowler in the world along with Pattinson, Siddle, Ryan Harris, Mohd Sami and Cummins.

  • PrasPunter on July 10, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    "I'm back" - for what , sling the ball everywhere but on the wicket ? Its time we Aus talk less and do more . There used to be a time when we walked our talk but they were Legends. Not the case anymore. So , do it , do it and do it rather than talking ourselves up.

  • cammo82 on July 10, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    Maybe the reason Johnson has been blowing well in the nets is because he has been bowling against the Aus batsman?

  • Aristotle01 on July 10, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    Mitchell Johnson : I'm Back. The rest of the world: Go Back. LoL.

  • Ramsespd on July 10, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Why is this dud even over there? Been in terrible form at International level in all formats for 2 years. Starc, McDermott and even Siddle are much better players who wont go to water with one bad ball. Been riding on the coat tails of a test 8 for 4 years ago. Move on selectors...

  • ozwriter on July 10, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    johnson is good on his day. hope he is back. the underperforming forrest and bailey, should be shown the door.

  • proudcricketfan on July 10, 2012, 7:57 GMT

    stop talking dude and prove yourself in the field...

  • Aspraso on July 10, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    Never know with this Ozzies -- is Johnson& skipper talking of how well he is bowling in the nets? Remember a Ponting who was batting so well in the nets and in the field could not go past double digits in his last several ODIs

  • zenboomerang on July 10, 2012, 5:47 GMT

    @Daniel Brettig... It is a pity that you didn't follow the obvious line that Johnson has had mental issues with his bowling & that just sitting around chilling out is how a highly paid athlete shouldn't behave - this has been an issue with Johnson for over 2 years... Surely this shows a complete lack of understanding by CA - NSP, coaches, captains - that they didn't see what everyone on the outside has been seeing...

  • Orsoncarte on July 10, 2012, 2:27 GMT

    One of the pre-requisites for having a new heart is to have a heart in the first place.

  • RandyOZ on July 10, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    The only thing Johnson delivers, is full balls down the leg side. I would hope Starc is far higher up in the pecking order.

  • bobagorof on July 9, 2012, 23:51 GMT

    I'm often surprised to read these articles and realise how little sportsmen actually know what they're doing. Johnson does not appear to be very self-aware - he's been playing international cricket for 6 1/2 years, is now 30, and has only just figured out he's a 'confidence player'? He also paid no attention to his field settings in the nets? A few years ago Brett Lee kept bowling no-balls in matches, but wouldn't use his full run-up or even pay attention to the crease in training. I know that people use different methods for success, but I'm astounded that they could get so far without a clue.

  • Carpathian on July 9, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    Johnson sure talks to the media a lot.

  • Jediroya on July 9, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    The title of this article sums it up perfectly: Johnson talks. If/when he actually delivers, then maybe we will listen.

  • Fifthman on July 9, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    More whistling in the dark to keep his spirits up. I've lost count of the number of warm, fuzzy articles I've read about Johnson, and they're all complete nonsense. The fact that he makes such a point of saying how the Barmy Army's chants don't bother him tells you that it really does matter to him. If Autralia want to continue this idiocy and keep on playing him, that's fine by England. We'll keep milking him for runs and taking the p1ss out of him.

  • landl47 on July 9, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    Johnson is talking a good game, but when he came back he was the same old Mitch- 4 no-balls, 2 wides, no consistency and little movement. 0-43 in 7 overs. He's 30 now and if he hasn't got it right yet, when's it going to happen? His day has passed, Aus needs to work with the young lads now and hope that by the time they are ready they'll have found a few batsmen.

  • wibblewibble on July 9, 2012, 18:12 GMT

    Lets face it, Mitch is not getting any more accurate about where he bowls the ball, he can't stick to a consistent line even when he does decide where he is trying to bowl, isn't getting any faster and still can only swing the ball by chance/conditions. He's inaccurate and ineffective 95% of the time. The reason the crowd don't give him quite as much stick these days is that it is cruel to taunt someone as limited as he clearly is.

    To take a sneak peek at where Mitch's career is going, see Steve Harminson.

  • RightArmEverything on July 9, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    I somehow feel that Brettig is against Johnson. I recall an article last year where he blamed Johnson, who had been selected to play for WA, for the fact that Nile was not picked - how this was Johnson's fault I'm not sure. Any attempt to sympathise with Johnson is false here. It's a shame that on top of the many fickle general spectators who would love to see him fall in a heap, we have a journalist deep amongst them.

  • B.C.G on July 9, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    Decide which pitch the batsmen is playing on?Are you squint or something?

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  • B.C.G on July 9, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    Decide which pitch the batsmen is playing on?Are you squint or something?

  • RightArmEverything on July 9, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    I somehow feel that Brettig is against Johnson. I recall an article last year where he blamed Johnson, who had been selected to play for WA, for the fact that Nile was not picked - how this was Johnson's fault I'm not sure. Any attempt to sympathise with Johnson is false here. It's a shame that on top of the many fickle general spectators who would love to see him fall in a heap, we have a journalist deep amongst them.

  • wibblewibble on July 9, 2012, 18:12 GMT

    Lets face it, Mitch is not getting any more accurate about where he bowls the ball, he can't stick to a consistent line even when he does decide where he is trying to bowl, isn't getting any faster and still can only swing the ball by chance/conditions. He's inaccurate and ineffective 95% of the time. The reason the crowd don't give him quite as much stick these days is that it is cruel to taunt someone as limited as he clearly is.

    To take a sneak peek at where Mitch's career is going, see Steve Harminson.

  • landl47 on July 9, 2012, 18:41 GMT

    Johnson is talking a good game, but when he came back he was the same old Mitch- 4 no-balls, 2 wides, no consistency and little movement. 0-43 in 7 overs. He's 30 now and if he hasn't got it right yet, when's it going to happen? His day has passed, Aus needs to work with the young lads now and hope that by the time they are ready they'll have found a few batsmen.

  • Fifthman on July 9, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    More whistling in the dark to keep his spirits up. I've lost count of the number of warm, fuzzy articles I've read about Johnson, and they're all complete nonsense. The fact that he makes such a point of saying how the Barmy Army's chants don't bother him tells you that it really does matter to him. If Autralia want to continue this idiocy and keep on playing him, that's fine by England. We'll keep milking him for runs and taking the p1ss out of him.

  • Jediroya on July 9, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    The title of this article sums it up perfectly: Johnson talks. If/when he actually delivers, then maybe we will listen.

  • Carpathian on July 9, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    Johnson sure talks to the media a lot.

  • bobagorof on July 9, 2012, 23:51 GMT

    I'm often surprised to read these articles and realise how little sportsmen actually know what they're doing. Johnson does not appear to be very self-aware - he's been playing international cricket for 6 1/2 years, is now 30, and has only just figured out he's a 'confidence player'? He also paid no attention to his field settings in the nets? A few years ago Brett Lee kept bowling no-balls in matches, but wouldn't use his full run-up or even pay attention to the crease in training. I know that people use different methods for success, but I'm astounded that they could get so far without a clue.

  • RandyOZ on July 10, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    The only thing Johnson delivers, is full balls down the leg side. I would hope Starc is far higher up in the pecking order.

  • Orsoncarte on July 10, 2012, 2:27 GMT

    One of the pre-requisites for having a new heart is to have a heart in the first place.