Paceman who struck fear into the 2013-14 Ashes tourists has decided to call it a day,
LONDON: Not many players have had as devastating an impact on the England team as Mitchell Johnson, who yesterday announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket.
His performances during the whitewash series of the 2013-14 Ashes changed English cricket, both on and off the field.
Without Johnson, Australia would not have won that series 5-0 and, who knows, perhaps Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen would both still be involved with England in some capacity.
Johnson finished them both off. He created cracks in a team who had won the previous three Ashes series. He started it all off in the first Test in Brisbane, bowling one of the most ferocious spells I have seen from a fast bowler, and never let up.
From that moment on, we knew we had a different Mitchell Johnson on our hands. He was at the top of his game. With Ryan Harris's support and a spinner in Nathan Lyon capable of tying up an end, Johnson was able to concentrate on bowling quickly. In 2009-10, he was clearly hurt by all the stick he received from the Barmy Army and he was bowling in a poor Australia side. He then missed the 2013 series in England and that helped.
It meant that he started the series at home in Australia without the pressure of expectation.England expected him to crumble again. They were wrong.
I faced him only twice, both in warm-up matches, and never had the chance to bat against Johnson in a Test with the pressure on. But from the sidelines, I could see the reason why batsmen hated facing him.
I might be doing him a disservice but I think the fact that even he did not know what was going to come out of his hand made it very hard for the batsmen to line him up.
When a bowler has repeatable pace and movement, you can start to gauge how to play them and work out a method. With Johnson, it was very difficult because each ball could be different.
Sometimes, he would run in, bowl the perfect ball, nipping it back into the right-hander at pace. The next delivery, he would lose his action a little and bowl the ball across the batsman. If he got his bouncer right, it would fizz at the batsman at 95mph. He might try it again next ball, get it slightly wrong and bowl the same ball 10mph slower.
On hard Australian pitches, he would catch batsmen on the crease with his pace. In England, he did not have the same potency
because the slower surfaces nullified that extra speed. But with the next Ashes series due to be in Australia in 2017-18, I can guarantee there are many English batsmen relieved today that he has retired.
I am not surprised he has walked away. I think it was a great way to bow out, without fanfare on his home ground of Perth and with a new batch of Australian quick bowlers coming through. His time was up and he knew it.
We saw only flashes of his old self during the last Ashes. There was a spell at Edgbaston in the third Test when he knocked over Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with short balls but the conditions did not suit his style and he never really posed the same threat as he did in 2013-14.
It was a shame because watching a left-arm fast bowler like Johnson is a rare privilege.
There are not many left in the game, and guys like him and Wahab Riaz always make something happen, either good or bad. Some will say that he was fragile mentally. But he was still bowling at full pace in his mid-30s and it takes real mental strength to be able to keep up your speeds at that age. The fact that he was the pantomime villain for England fans was a mark of respect. They do not bother to rile players they know pose no threat to their team. The England fans knew that if Johnson clicked he could blow England away in an hour and turn a match in a session.
He is probably just short of making it into an all-time Australia XI but, if you were to pick an XI made up of impact players, guys capable of winning matches with a spell of brilliance, then Johnson would be in the side.
Would I want to face him? No. Would I want him in my side? Absolutely.