Former Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson has opened up on the personal struggles that plagued his disastrous 2009 Ashes tour, saying he was deeply affected by a rift between his then-girlfriend (now his wife) and his mother.
The trip to the UK 10 years ago didn’t go to plan for Johnson, whose wayward performances on the pitch were compounded by off-field issues.
Consistency was never the left-armer’s strongest suit but his radar was especially wonky at different stages of his first Ashes series and The Barmy Army showed him no mercy as it mocked him relentlessly whenever he was having a tough day.
Speaking to former England players turned commentators Isa Guha and Phil Tufnell for the BBC’s Test Match Special podcast, Johnson said his introduction to cricket in the UK differed vastly from the friendly experience he was hoping for.
He added the intense media scrutiny in the lead-up to the series made life difficult and when reports emerged of his mother not liking his partner Jessica Bratich, things became even worse.
“It was just a long line of cameras and journalists and the questions — it was a barrage straight away and I was just blown away and I think my expectations were just totally off,” Johnson said of the media presence at a tour game before the first Test at Cardiff in 2009.
“About two days out (from the first Test) some stuff in the paper came out about my mum not liking my girlfriend — now wife — and it just took me by surprise and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
“I remember Ricky (Ponting) coming up to me, because it devastated me straight away, and I remember Ricky saying to me, ‘Don’t turn up to training tomorrow, relax, have a rest, try and get your mind clear, come for the game and switch on’.
“I didn’t deal with it too well. There’s issues still there with my mum so it’s really difficult but I think at the time I didn’t know what to do. I had people telling me, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that’, but you have to deal with it in your own way.”
Johnson’s mum Vikki Harber said her relationship with the cricketer had deteriorated since he met Bratich, telling the Herald Sun in 2009: “It has been like this since Jess came on the scene.
“Up until he met Jessica we were very close … but he hasn’t spent a night under my roof since he met Jessica.”
Johnson was so wound up in 2009 he had to be physically restrained by a teammate during the warm-up before the Cardiff Test when England batsman Kevin Pietersen was deliberately hitting tennis balls towards where Australia was preparing.
The Aussies told Pietersen to cut it out for fear someone might tread on a ball and injure themselves — like Glenn McGrath in the 2005 Ashes — and Johnson’s temper threatened to boil over.
“We started verbally going at it and then a few personal insults came out on his (Pietersen’s) behalf,” Johnson said. “It was (fast bowler) Stuart Clark that had to drag me away at the time.
“That’s how the tour started.”
That was a taste of what was to follow for Johnson, who endured a frustrating tour on an individual level while Ponting’s team surrendered the Ashes in a 2-1 series loss. But the paceman enjoyed a career renaissance in later years and credited his revival with coming out of the tough times that hounded him on that 2009 tour.
“The personal stuff was in my head all the time,” Johnson said. “If I didn’t go through that period I had in 09, I wouldn’t have had the career that I had.
“I was able to go through those experiences, and they can be horrible at the time and you feel alone but I did have great support. Jess, my wife now, was with me and was always supportive and other family at home and friends but you’ve got to find a way.
“I went through all that and it made me stronger.”
Johnson more than made up for that ugly Ashes debut when he terrorised England Down Under in the 2013/14 summer. Johnson flourished under Michael Clarke’s captaincy and was used to devastating effect in the 5-0 whitewash, being unleashed in short, hostile spells that saw him take 37 wickets for the series.
Straight after that remarkable effort he ran riot in South Africa, taking 22 wickets in three Tests as Australia secured a memorable series victory in enemy territory.
Johnson eventually retired in 2015 having taken 313 wickets at an average of 28.4 in 73 Tests.
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Publish date : 2019-08-15 15:23:38