With cricket increasingly becoming a batsman friendly game in recent years, there was one bowler who rattled the willow wielders like few could. Teams would actually try to counter Mitchell Johnson’s fiery pace and bounce by opting for ‘soft’ pitches. Yes, batsmen the world over will be heaving a sigh relief! The fourth highest wicket-taker for Australia in tests burst on to the scene with his raw pace and there was a time when he wasn’t considered to be mentally tough enough.
He rose above the criticism and simply blew England away in the 2013 Ashes at home. In the same year, he helped tame South Africa in their own backyard leading to him getting the Allan Border Medal for Australia’s Cricketer of the Year at the age of 32. A fearsome proposition, we take a look at some interesting bits from his life which give an insight into the man that he is:
Among his repertoire of skills, he included his moustache as one of his weapons. Inspired by greats Dennis Lillee and Merv Hughes, Johnson is convinced that a mo' adds to the stare and scare tactic. "It does give you that little bit of extra agro as well when you have the stare going on," he said. "I've looked back at some footage when I've been clean shaven and it doesn't really have the same effect."
Known to be a fan of Japanese art, the 6 foot 2 inch canvas has inked himself in Oriental designs, prominent on his right arm. “Tattoos signify a few things. There’s a Japanese koi (fish), some cherry blossoms that have a meaning of luck,” he explained. He also has a stooped panther, ready to pounce, on his left torso draping down from his rib-cage.
Before he delved into the world of cricket, Johnson dabbled plenty in tennis and aspired to be Pete Sampras. "I was very serious about tennis. I wanted to pursue it professionally. I played a lot of tennis back then," he pointed out. Interestingly he was a right-handed junior tennis player and "was sought after as a tennis scholar until his cricket potential was recognised."
After losing his state contract during his early injury-ridden days, he supported himself by working for a plumbing firm in Brisbane. "I wasn't enjoying my cricket because of my back," he said. "I worked as a delivery driver getting up at 4.30am and delivering all the plumbing supplies to work sites. I think it was actually the best thing for me at the time, I got my hands dirty. I needed that focus away from cricket and obviously needed to earn some money as well." He played for Australia shortly after that.
Song In His Head
Johnson had a unique way of ensuring that he was mentally proficient on the field. "When I'm out in the middle now, I just have a song in my head," he revealed in November 2014. "That way, my mind doesn't fill with thoughts. I learnt this trick from Glenn McGrath. If you've got a song in your head, there's no room for bad thoughts." And his choices are not as scary as he looks. "I like the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. It reminds me of my daughter."