Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Australia left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Johnson has announced that he will never stop playing mind games with batsmen since it has brought him a lot of success over the past 12 months.
In a new DVD titled ‘Mitchell Johnson: Bouncing Back,’ Johnson revealed that the national team’s gameplan during the last Ashes series was to trouble the England batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. The 33-year-old also went on to say that he was glad he got injured while touring South Africa in 2011 since it made him a better bowler.
“Sometimes we say stupid things when we’re out there,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we try and say things that hopefully get into the batsmen’s heads a little bit. We try to get them to think about their feet, or just let them know you are going to bowl another short ball. It’s all mind games.
“Sometimes it might look a little different on TV. It might look as if we’re going a bit too hard at each other, and sometimes it could be a bit over the top. But we’re always trying to stay inside the guidelines.
“If you can get into someone’s mind by speaking to a batsman and tell them that their feet aren’t going anywhere, hopefully they’ll start to think about that. You then bowl a short one at them, and you’re in their head. I love that part of the game. I think it’s great. And I don’t think it’s ever going to stop.”
Johnson also noted that Australia used Jonathan Trott as their guinea pig to see whether the short ball would trouble the English batsmen. When it proved to be an overwhelming success, they started to target other batsmen, most notably Michael Carberry.
“The plan was to go hard at him [Trott],” Johnson said. “We’d knew that he’d step across a long way, and the way he plays the short ball… he struggled in that one day series earlier in England. That was the plan to him. The delivery was probably a bit wider than I wanted it, but he pushed the bat out there because he was in a bad position. It [Trott’s dismissal] was definitely a crucial point in the game.
“I didn’t want to go around the wicket. I was a bit iffy about it. Michael (Clarke) was really keen on me to do it, to change the angle, because he [Carberry] was just letting balls go outside off stump. He was really patient at that stage. So I came around the wicket. We had the field set for the short ball.
“The first two balls I went hard at him, and then one went across chest high. He went to play and leave, and found the edge.
“That definitely sparked a bit of panic in their dressing room. Our goal throughout the whole series was also to go after their tail. Once we got their tail in, I don’t think they were too keen on it. Going at Stuart Broad’s body didn’t really give him a chance to move. Having that field set, it was definitely playing with their minds. And that stayed with them throughout the whole series. They didn’t want a bar of it.”
By the end of the five-Test series, Johnson stated that captain Alastair Cook looked as if he “had had enough by then”.
“There was almost a sigh of relief. You could see the expression on his face,” Johnson said.
Coming back to the topic about his toe injury in South Africa, Johnson conceded that he was “hoping to get injured so that somehow I could get away from the game”.
“For a fair while before that I was probably hoping to get injured so that somehow I could get away from the game,” he said. “I needed to work on a few things. I needed to freshen up and work on some of my strengths, my fitness, some technical stuff. I just wasn’t able to do that while I was constantly playing.
“There was a lot of relief there. As much as you don’t want to have an injury I was sort of praying for one. Having time off was really beneficial for me.
“For the first two months of my injury I didn’t miss cricket at all. I don’t think I really watched it at all. I wasn’t following it. I just wanted to get away from it. By the end of those two months I started to get that itch back again.”
The DVD also highlights the toughest parts of Johnson’s international career, which includes being dropped from the national team and his maiden tour of England in 2009.
“When we got into England and we had a line up of media, I was just blown away by the attention,” he said. ” didn’t expect it. A few of the senior players like Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting were saying that you had to expect all this media attention, because it was the Ashes series. But that was the starting point for me to think about a lot of different things in my game, and that’s where it all probably went wrong for me.
“We were copping a fair bit of stick from their media straight away. And that was their plan… to get into our heads. It worked on me. I wasn’t used to it. I was used to being praised and hearing ‘good on you, well done, you’re going well’ and then all of a sudden they were picking on little things I’d never heard or ever thought of. It was pretty brutal.
“I learnt from that to really focus on myself, and needed to learn how to block things out. At that stage I didn’t know how to do that, so it was a really good learning experience. It made me grow as a person and a player. There were a lot of personal things happening off the field at the time that were really affecting me, and now I’ve got through all that stuff.”