Time for Australia to quit the trash-talk

Here's something you wouldn't know from all the recent Ashes build-up: MITCHELL JOHNSON IS RETIRED. Has been for two years. Australia have invoked his name so many times, it's like they are trying to summon the Candyman, but Johnson is a lot less terrifying off 280 characters on Twitter than he was off 18 or 20 paces at the WACA or the Gabba. There is no reason England should expect a repeat of their 2013-14 horror show.

But Australia hang on to that series like a talisman, desperate to replicate the whitewash. And why wouldn't they? It's the only one of the past five Ashes campaigns they have won. Nathan Lyon says he wants to end careers and head-butt the line, whatever that means. David Warner thinks Australia need to find "hatred" of their England opponents. There's a reason it's called trash-talk. It is talk, and it's also trash.

Three days before the opening Test of an Ashes series, Lyon was speaking to the English media about Matt Prior being scared and wanting to go home back in 2013. What was the point of that? Prior is now retired and thus as relevant to this campaign as Johnson. You might as well try to reopen the scars of the 1948 Invincibles tour. Will the spectre of Bradman haunt England this time?

On the day before the first Test, the captains' press conferences were revealing. "It's all part of the Ashes banter," Steven Smith said. "It's not how I'd want my players to go about things," Joe Root said. Root was a picture of understated composure, and said he had even surprised himself with how calm he felt on the eve of his Ashes captaincy debut. If Australia think England are ruffled by all the "banter", they're deluded.

In fact, Australia need to be careful that harking back to 2013-14 doesn't backfire. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood make up an outstanding pace attack, but they must remain true to themselves and not feel under pressure to replicate Johnson's approach. Johnson was so mercurial that he probably couldn't even replicate it himself.

"The people who can keep their emotions consistent and in check, they're generally the ones who do the best," former Australia opener Chris Rogers said on the eve of the Ashes. Nobody who saw Root, Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali speaking to the media over the past couple of days could have accused them of being emotionally volatile.

Australia would do well to remember a few important facts.

One of Test cricket's all-time top 10 run-scorers will feature in this series. He's playing for England.

Two of Test cricket's all-time top 20 wicket-takers are also taking part. They're both playing for England.

And which team holds the Ashes, and thus needs only a drawn series to retain the urn? England.

Australia are short-priced favourites to win the series, and given their usual strength at home, that is fair. But they can't afford to distract themselves from the task at hand.

To paraphrase one of the great philosophical thinkers of our era, Lawrence Tureaud, it's time for Australia to quit the jibber-jabber. From Thursday, they will need to put up or shut up. They might even consider doing both.