Tag Archives: mitchell johnson

Johnson and Smith: a short rough love affair

February, 2014

The ball punches the pitch, and cracks into Graeme Smith who seems to react only as the ball leaves him. It loops up slowly and the crowd make noise accordingly. It is just off the pad. Not out. It is the first ball Smith faces from Mitchell Johnson.

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There is not much time to think between the ball leaving Johnson’s hand and the batsman having to deal with it. It is like a camera flash, or a political back-flip.

You can have a plan, you can think it through, but the ball just comes out of his hand and you react. There are some batsmen who revel in that. See ball, hit ball.

Not enough time for clear rational thought. There is not enough time to think about past deliveries, or history, it just happens.

January, 2009

A full ball that that should never have damaged anyone, but spat up and took the left massive hand of Smith. His hand disappeared like he had been zapped by a ray gun. For a second Smith was lost, the pain confused him, he was walking around in a circle towards point. And only then did he eventually find the culprit, which had gone off to fine leg to allow him to get off strike. But the damage was done, and he would only come back into to bat at No. 11, with a broken hand.

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There is a bowling machine that players have used to try and learn the mystery and tricks of certain players, the Pro Batter. You can face Morne Morkel, Lasith Malinga or even Mitchell Johnson.

But you can’t program it with superhuman confidence. You can’t give it artificial menace. And you can’t play against it like it is a real force of nature. It is a computer game with real elements. Nothing more. All you can do is try and pick up a few tricks that you hope the next time you play will come in handy.

South Africa have used the Pro Batter, they have also faced Johnson at his old best. They should know how to play him. Smith has faced him more than most. They have survived him at the WACA, after he took 8 for 61, they milked him on their chase beyond 400 to win, they have played him ten times. They know him.

Well, they knew the old him. This new one is relentless and brutal, like a zombie girl group, or a current affairs reporter. This Mitchell is worse and better than anything that can be made with CGI or the old model.

March, 2009

Off the ground, looking at point, one hand off the bat, the right hand protecting his throat and being smashed into the bat handle. That is how Smith found himself as he just tried to survive a delivery. The ball did not take his wicket, he did end up in hospital.

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Smith is respected all over the world. He has scored almost 10,000 Test runs. He has done that at almost an average of 50. He has 27 Test centuries. He is the captain and leader of the world’s best Test team.

Smith is South Africa’s top order monolith. Strong, calm and reliable. The young warrior who took over the side and pushed them higher than they had ever been. All with a bottom handed technique that makes even his best shots look like a solid uppercut.

His place in the world of cricket is safe and secure, and he could retire tomorrow and be remembered for decades.

In nine Tests he has been dismissed by Johnson five times and sent to hospital twice. Today Johnson tried to do both in one ball.

February, 2014

The ball leaves the pitch with a mission to break the jaw or eye socket of Smith. There is no time. There is nowhere to hide. There is no way out. Smith can ever be hit in the face, or try and play the ball. His body is doing in one direction, his face another. His bat is jerking upwards not like a cricket shot, but like he is fending off a surprise Pterodactyl attack. The ball hits the bat, more by pure chance than design. The ball flies high, and all of the slips, (there are a few, but it seems like hundreds), arch their necks up at once, and watch it float behind them. Shaun Marsh chases, and chases, while the batsmen easily cross, and at the last minute he reaches the ball to barely take the catch.

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Graeme Smith faced two balls from Mitchell Johnson today.

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Attempting to explain Mitchell Johnson

A full toss down the legside is as bad a ball you can bowl in cricket. It is a ball so bad it is almost as if it was designed just so it could not get a wicket. It is how Mitchell Johnson started his day.

After three overs of few good balls, extra nervous paces in his run up and some shocking balls down the legside, Johnson was off. The new ball was being wasted. The only ball that showed that a good day was possible was a very full ball to Michael Carberry that swung late and beat him. But the seam told a story. Instead of being straight like Ryan Harris or James Anderson would present it, it was all over the place. The ball seemed to swing more because it felt sorry for Johnson, rather than anything else.

The second spell only happened because of Harris’s controlled probing of Alastair Cook. But as Jonathan Trott came in, Johnson was reborn. Again.

Australians don’t see the IPL. So performances there don’t count for much. Five wickets in one Shield match doesn’t change much either. Australians often don’t watch tours, especially one-day tours. And the Champions Trophy is often, and easily, ignored.

But the talk of Johnson continued to grow. Of course, anyone can pick up a few IPL batsmen and scare them. Often a foreign quick is the first they’ve seen. And as a white ball bowler, in Australia and otherwise, Johnson has often had series and years where he travels from ground to ground scaring the hell out of any poor batsmen who have to face him. It is not often happened like that in Tests.

He can talk up his form, Brett Lee can talk up his form, Allan Border can talk up his form, David Warner can talk up his form, and hell, even Sachin Tendulkar can talk up his form, but this is Test cricket. A form of cricket where Johnson has spread his absolute worst around many times. He would not be bowling to a skinny kid from Karnataka who has never seen a quick bowler before, or bowling with a white ball that swings if you get the seam roughly in the right place. This was the real deal, the place he had been and failed many times before.

The last time England were at the Gabba, Johnson was at his worst. And his worst is something that is almost special in its completeness. The ball turns into his enemy, his head almost retracts into his chest, and he has the perfect facial expression that combines gormless confusion and utter despair. 0 for 170 and a dropped catch were what he gave.

The next Test he played after being dropped/rested, Johnson was man of the match.

“The television does not do any justice to the physicality of Johnson” is how Ed Cowan described what it is like to face him. It’s not immediately obvious as he walks up to his mark what a brute he is.

Ryan Harris walks to his mark like a man about to pick up a truck and beat his enemy to death with it. Johnson has polite, eager, controlled steps, like an office worker who wants to go to the far sandwich shop to get his falafel wrap, but is worried about how long it will take.

When finally at the top of his mark, Johnson’s flick of the ball to himself is effete, coming out of the back of his wrist. It is not going to intimidate anyone.

Then it all changes when he comes in. The crouch and power run-up start are much more intense and the massive step and sling (which according to Ed Cowan “takes an eternity for the ball to be launched towards you”) is pretty intimidating. On a bad Mitch day, none of this is that big of a problem; on a good Mitch day, all of this plays into his force.

And his force looks increased. Maybe it’s the masculine moustache, but his face looks tougher and his body looks stronger. He was never not well put together. Now he looks even bigger and more brutal. One journalist described his calves as practically exploding. And maybe he is wearing a tighter shirt these days, but even his veins seem to have muscles on them.

Moustache or not, at times he had a boy’s face that made him look like a cuddly fast bowler that you could almost feel sorry for. Today he did not.

The spell that was supposed to be at Trott started with 12 straight balls at Carberry. At one stage, four out of five of them were bouncers. He also put a few down the leg side, perhaps to get Carberry off strike, but more likely he just had no control. A leg slip was brought in, but a second, finer fine leg could have helped as well.

When he finally got to Trott, he was different. Cook and Carberry had played him without much trouble. With Trott he just assumed the batsman would struggle. Straightaway he slammed him on the gloves. Mitch stared at Trott in such an intense way; the old Mitch would have been afraid. Trott’s defence was to hop across his stumps and scoop the ball away. It showed a fear and frailty in Trott that you almost never see.

Next over, Mitch bowled an innocuous ball down the leg side, Trott continued to jump to the off side, and this time got some bat behind to Haddin.

It was clearly a plan, and it was clearly intentional, but the actual plan was for Trott to receive a ball flying up at his ribs from around the wicket that he could not get out the way of, not just feather a ball he should not have been able to reach. In many ways, Mitch is master of the accident. He created the mistake, but had he bowled a better ball he probably wouldn’t have got the wicket.

Fast bowlers have such a reputation that one admitting to getting counseling to get over ribbing from the crowd (even well-organized bullying) would usually seem out of place. But no one was surprised when Mitch said he got some counselling to overcome what the Barmy Army put him through. His frailties have never been hidden.

The Barmy Army were never going to let him off easy this time, and a few good showings with the white ball weren’t about to stop them chanting their well-known rhyming verse.

This time he almost seemed to want it. He was talking about attacking throats and targeting batsmen, this from a man seemingly on the verge of tears at many times in his career. If he could not get England out, he was happy with putting them in hospital. He had even noted they had flown left-armers in to prepare for him. England, being the arch planners they are, would always do that. But he saw it as a personal victory. Another confidence boost for the new improved Mitch.

There is a theory that when Johnson bats well, he bowls well. It does occasionally happen. His only hundred was in a game where he took 4 for 148. And one of his 10-wicket hauls came when he scored a pair. So it is not science. But no one who has even casually glanced at Johnson would see him as anything other than a confidence player.

When he bowled to Carberry around the wicket, he looked like a completely different bowler to the one that Carberry had blunted easily all day. The first ball crashed into Carberry; he jumped in anticipation as George Bailey scrambled for it. There was no bat on it, but it seemed to excite Johnson greatly. The next ball was a very quick bouncer, and a terrible attempted hook from Carberry. Next ball Carberry was out.

Root’s wicket was just a standard full and wide Johnson ball; it could have happened on any day, even one of his bad days. Swann’s wicket was granted by a guy who was thinking of short balls when he got a full one, and despite Johnson trying to decapitate Broad and Tremlett, he couldn’t get the fifth wicket he obviously deserved.

At the end, Johnson had taken nearly half the wickets and gone for nearly half the runs. Johnson upset some batsmen, frightened others and roughed up almost all of them. He has been more brutal, on pitches just as lifeless, but he had not done it much when people had talked him up to this extent. He had never looked as brutal for so long. And he had almost never done it when people really expected him too.

Days like this do not forgive him for the many bad days, they just make him even more frustrating. Also exciting, as you know you’re probably going to get something quite newsworthy from him, one way or another. There are few players who can win a Test so quickly. For either team.

Johnson might not win Australia another Test this series. He might not win them this one. He might get dropped before the end of it. He might never win Australia another Test. And this time next year he might have played his last-ever Test match. All of that is possible in the career of Mitchell Johnson. His future is as unpredictable as his next delivery.

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LEAVE MITCHELL JOHNSON ALONE!!!!!

Yes, Mitchell Johnson is back, and that makes you fear like nothing since the last time you looked directly at an image of Peter Borren.

Some fear he will play, and fail, and lose Australia a series.

Others fear he will play, and fail, and their team won’t ever get to play against him again.

I fear he won’t fail and he’ll never ever go away.

Mitchell and I have this sort of long lasting cycle of violence between each other that he doesn’t know about and I can’t escape. But, if he’s not around, then I can continue with my life in a sort of semi normal kind of way. Because Mitchell is the ultimate bad ex-girlfriend. And this latest comeback is the ultimate accidental late night sext to a new boyfriend ever.

But some people love him, and while I haven’t been able to find many, here is by far the best one.

Yeah, leave him alone, perhaps in a cave, with an immovable boulder in front of it.

If you want to correspond with the sexy bastard in the video, he can be found here.

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Mitchell Johnson’s Zombocalypse

Last night I had a dream about zombies. I’m not sure why. I haven’t been watching more zombie films than usual lately, just [rec] and the Walking Dead, which and both of those were over a week earlier. This was an actual dream, it’s legitimately not made up. And is probably the longest dream I’ve ever had in that it seemed to start when I first went to bed and finish when I woke up.

 

I was in the middle of a zombocalypse, although the problem is you don’t know their zombies until they’re trying to bite you.  It’s like a real zombie attack would be, you start with confusion over why a bunch of junkies are trying to bite you.

Once I got the picture, I ran off from the zombies, they were the slow moving kind because even in my subconscious I like to pay homage to the originals.

In that sort of weird dream way I saw a house up a hill and made my way there. Probably because it was double story house that reminded of night of the living dead.

In the house were 8 different people who never really got implanted into my memory; this meant I knew they’d die.

We green our own food and had two permanent guards stationed outside.

One bad night we lost one person.  He was eaten in front of us as we defended our house.

To stop this happening again we put tight string around the perimeter of the house at waist high, in four different rings, with bells attached So that zombies would ring four different bells before they got close. And if a guard saw or heard the zombies they could also ring the bells directly to get us all up quickly.

It worked for a while, but they must smell you, because the first attack is only two or three, but then there’s 4, or 7, then 20. Before long we were having four people on patrol, then six. It didn’t matter, you couldn’t sleep anyway. You were more useful outside the house half asleep because you can react quicker.

We lost two more one night, and one of my fellow bleeders gets bit and I have to shoot her in the head.  She’s a young girl, but I do what I have to. After that night we started to fight. Everyone had their own plan, but none of them are that feasible.  We just continue to get more scared and tired.

One night while I’m asleep I hear them break in into the house. I don’t know what has happened to the rest of them.  The only way out is to fight down the stairs past about 5 zombies.

Zombies are slow, but they’re not easy to kill. Hitting them hard enough on the head to stop them is not easy and in a hall or stairway you can’t get around them easy. Also, you get tired from hitting them, taking zest out of your next shot, and swinging a cricket bat straight down is not something you’ve learnt to do from a MCC coaching manual or a lifetime of playing cricket.

Somehow, mostly with luck, I get past them all and once I’m in the open I manage to slip away.

For weeks I roam around barely keeping alive, killing the odd zombie, eating whatever food I can find.  Quite often it was raw dead birds.

One day I see what appears to be a young couple stacking up zombie corpses out the front of a house.

I go over, but when I get close the guy takes out a gun and points it at me.  Soon I realise why, I’m skinny as fuck, probably look like a psycho, have some zombie’s guts on me and am holding a samurai sword in one hand and an old Duncan Fearnley in the other. Not sure what it was a Duncan Fearnley, I’ve never used one.

Eventually they trust me and I help them with the bodies that they are building up to mask their smell.  It’s a good theory.  And for a couple of weeks we live pretty comfortably.

Then one day a zombie just turns up, and over the following days more come.  We kill them, but once 7 turn up at once, I know this place isn’t safe, I try to convince the couple, but they don’t believe me.

Now I’m walking down a train track and I think almost look enough like a zombie to get by.  Until I pass a bunch zombies eating a dead dog, and they smell me.

They come over and I attack them.  It’s not as easy as it first was.  I have to hit them three or four times to get them to re-die.  I can no longer run around, I’m barely quicker than they are, so I end up with one on top of me inches away from biting me.  I mange to roll him over and then break his jaw with the handle and smash him over and over again with the bat, even long after he’s stopped moving.

I don’t even hear the helicopter suddenly I’m being whisked away to a safe haven by the government.  They ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a cricket writer that leads them to sitting me next to someone I recognise.  I might look like shit, but this guy looks fresh as a daisy, he even smells like he’s showered and he looks very refreshed.

“Hi, I’m Mitchell”

Jarrod.

“Nice to meet you.

How the fuck did you manage to survive?

“Don’t know really, I just did”.

You don’t have a scratch on you, did you even run into a zombie.

“No, managed to avoid them, lucky, huh?”

Fucken cunt.

 

And then I woke up.

 

 

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The KP and Mitch relationship

While I may have an abusive relationship with Mitch, KP’s relationship with him is much different.

You only had to look into KP’s eyes while he denounced any possibility of having a relationship with Mitch to know it was something quite special.

Last week it was Mitch saying that KP was a smart ass and that KP hadn’t seriously asked for his number.

On the surface this could be just ashes byplay that means less than nothing other that keeping newspapers printing.

Ofcourse, that’s what they want you to think.

In truth this all started long ago when KP was playing in Brisbane and he saw Mitchell in his short plumbing shorts.

No it didn’t.

If you expect some sort of cricket slash story involving Mitch unclogging KP’s pipe this isn’t the place.

KP and Mitch have no relationship.

None whatsoever.

It wasn’t until last week that KP even knew Mitch existed.  Before getting bowled he thought Mitch was a net bowler who kept accidently walking out on the pitch.

And Mitch still can’t tell KP from Trott.  Cooley sent him out with a note that said, “KP is the one with the camp Saffa accent”, but Mitch couldn’t tell which one of them sounded like a camper.

Both men could be in the same elevator without any sexual tension being noticeable to a third party.

Their relationship is not professional or platonic, it simply fails to exist.  Like Mitch’s inswinger a fortnight ago.

When Mitch was dropped (rested) and KP was (rested) dropped, they didn’t console each other.  There were no soothing text messages or kind digital words of any kind.

Mitch just continued his gormless existence and KP went about his life in KP land.

Although, if they did have a sexual relationship…. No, can’t even try and go there, imagining that is worse than watching a Mitch short ball down the legside or KP sweeping Hauritz off his head.  Although if you combine the two naked and that is exactly how they would go about it.

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Greg Chappell land

Last night Greg Chappell said that Mitchell Johnson had been rested.

Mitchell Johnson said that Mitchell Johnson had been dropped.

Andrew Hilditch said Michael Beer would play and his knowledge of the WACA would be important.

Michael Beer didn’t play and Ponting has now said his knowledge of the conditions of Melbourne will help.

There are even rumours that the four man pace attack was not a plan but more an accident.  Like Michael Beer’s selection.

Australia won this test.

I mean really won.

Smashed by an innings and coming back to win by over 200 runs.

How is it possible that this team with this band of merry muppets who don’t even seem to know what is going on around them can win a test so easily.

Especially when they not only beat England, but also the momentum of the Adelaide win.

I like to think that Australia beat England and Greg Chappell beat the momentum. It is his windmill and he rode that donkey straight for it.

Unfortunately the donkey still might not play next game, it was always going to be rested.

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My abusive relationship with Mitchell Johnson

It started before I even saw him. The use of the words ‘once in a generation’ made me keen to know more.

When I first saw him I didn’t think much, he was just a dumb kid and he wasn’t what I was looking for. Unlike the rest, I never fell for the left arm types; I don’t care what arm you use as long as you use it well.

Then he disappeared, and I must admit, I barely gave him a second thought.

When he came back I thought it was a bit weird, but then when he made it to the top level it really annoyed me. This dude had been driving a van for a plumber instead of trying to please me, why would I want him around?

It didn’t matter by this point, he was in my life whether I wanted him or not.

This, and his constant wide deliveries, really got to me. Every time Lee or Clark put the pressure on, this young buck with a stupid piercing would come on and let it all off.

Then he got better. He still bowled wide, but he took wickets as well. Without noticing my feelings change, suddenly it became apparent that I really liked him. The two old guys meant very little to me, it was all about Mitchell.

By the time he took South Africa down he was the only one I wanted.

Leading into the Ashes I wasn’t worried about too much, just that Mitchell would get injured. I couldn’t stand the thought he’d get hurt.

Then it all went wrong. During the ashes all I wanted was for him to get hurt.

That followed with a year of him being vile to me. Really fucken nasty at times. I tried to be nice to him, but when he goads you like that you just can’t help yourself.

It was sick and wrong, we were entrapped in hatred, that is how these relationships go, you can’t live with each other and you can’t kill the other person by drowning them in a soiled toilet.

This went on for the longest time, until I and everyone else were sick of him. Finally, he was gone. The cycle of hate could end.

That wasn’t true though, he wasn’t really gone. He was still around, just not in front of me, it just seemed like I could move on, find new people, become happy without him.

It just didn’t happen that way.

The other men were just as miserable as him, and he was quickly back. Way too quick for me.

Then he does this. Given me so much in one day. I can barely contain myself. While I might hate him for all the shit he brings me, when he is kind, he is very very kind.

The problem is, as good as I feel today, how will I feel in a week, a month, a year.

These moments of bliss wont last. He’ll quickly become abusive to me again. It will turn ugly. I’ll abuse him. We’ll turn to hate and try to make life as painful as possible for each other.

The cycle is set to continue. I speak out because I fear I am not the only one.

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balls profile: mitchell johnson

If you imagine the whole world is a scary place where anything could kill you, now you’re thinking like Mitchell Johnson. His tongue and labrette piercings were no preparation for the pain he would feel on the 09 Ashes trip. Given the gift of express pace and the power to lift the ball out of the ground there should be nothing stopping him. This is not the case. Instead is more like a lion scared by mice. His left arm slingy action is fast, proper fast. Facing it must be like being stuck in a horror film that is so bad it’s good. Has a brilliant knack of getting wickets just after every Australian in the crowd has demanded he be taken off. Once gave up cricket to drive a van for a plumber. Is not an all rounder, probably never will be as he leaves the cricket the ball much like Christopher Walken would have in Deer Hunter.

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Mitchell and Cooley

Dear Mitchell,

I still remember the first time I saw you.  You’re hair all tufty, kickin’ the dirt like a shy boy. teeth whiter than jesus, big shoulders, a plunger sticking out of your back pocket, the once in a generation teddy bear in your grasp and your labrette piercing shining in the sun.  Straight away I knew I’d be able to make you into something great.

Then I got to know you, and I’ve never bonded more with a young bowler than I have with you.  By the end I felt like I was the loving uncle who tucked you in at night when your parents were busy fighting.  You’re the left arm fast bowler I wish I could have had.

You were so eager to learn, so wide eyed and innocent.  The bambi of fast bowling.  I knew I could make you into a lethal machine.  It took time, for a while you were a superstar bowling with a white ball, but you bowled everything so wide with the red ball most of the day people just left you alone.

It came to you.  Some of it was your natural grace, the rest was me just giving you a friendly pat on the bum or explaining which way to point the seam.  Then when Clark got nipless and Lee tried to hard, you took over the side.

For me it was like watching my favourite son graduate from high school.  Sure you still had a lot to achieve, but I met you when you were a tiny little tacker, and now you’re all grown up.  63 wickets two years in a row, I was so proud.  When you took the saffas down in Perth, I felt like I was watching you take your wife after your wedding.

Ofcourse, this is where I might have become too involved with you.  Perhaps our relationship got weird.  The whole inswinger thing was my mistake.  I thought you were ready, and I pushed and pushed, but I was wrong.  Very wrong.

Maybe I started thinking of you as my son, and I got a touch of the tennis parent about me.  I was involved in every aspect of your life, and that was not healthy, I mean if you like cocoa pops, eat them, don’t listen to me. Also I stuffed up the whole Ashes thing by telling you what you needed instead of just letting you come to me.  By that point I thought you were a man.  That you were good enough to handle any sort of emotional upheaval and still work on your game. My bad.

Since then you’ve been struggling, and I think the problem is me.  My role is simply bowling coach, but I see myself as so much more to you. I am your comfort blanket, your father figure, your warm cup of coffee and all of this means I am too much.  I stopped coaching you a long time ago.

Now I smother.

So, it is better if I move on.  I know that everything I have taught you is in there somewhere.  You don’t need me.

I’m never more than a phone call away. I’ll always know you emotionally, physically and everything.

Fly freely my tufty haired bowling man.  You’ll always be that shy little white tooth boy to me.

Sincerely,

Troy Cooley

Your bowling coach, mentor, confidant, father figure and friend.

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The New Harmy

Mitchell Johnson plays better at home than away.

Mitchell Johnson can be a monster.

Mitchell Johnson often bowls balls that barely hit the cut strip.

Mitchell Johnson seems like a good bloke.

Mitchell Johnson is prone to bouts of bowling hopelessness.

Mitchell Johnson can bowl very fast.

Mitchell Johnson is a confidence bowler.

Mitchell Johnson can hurt people.

Mitchell Johnson is not the most stable individual.

Mitchell Johnson can donate runs.

Mitchell Johnson has destroyed good batting line ups.

Mitchell Johnson is the new Steve Harmison.

These are all vague generalisations, but you know, kinda right.

I’m not writing this for any reason other than I thought it would be nice to write a post about someone being the new someone without mentioning the person who people usually mention when the are new someoneing a bowler.

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