Australian speedster Mitchell Johnson, on 17 November, announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket, drawing the curtains on what has been an illustrious career. The left-arm seamer will bow out at the end of the ongoing 2nd Test between Australia and New Zealand at Perth.
There's probably no better time for a bowler with Johnson's explosive pace to hang his boots than after seeing the WACA wicket morph into a batsman's paradise. The flat wicket at Perth has already witnessed four tons and two double hundreds, with the Kiwis left to chase 321 runs on the final day.
But there has been no shortage of symbolism in the Perth Test. Whether it's the youthful Mitchell Starc piercing the 160 kmph barrier or batting hot-shot David Warner notching up his maiden Test double hundred, WACA has been witness to all. Johnson, too, bagged a personal achievement in his international swansong when he surpassed the Test wicket tally of Brett Lee for Australia.
The bowler, who has been lagging in the mid 130s, took just one wicket while conceding 157 runs in his spell of 28 overs in the first innings. But fast bowlers aren't remembered for the phase where they slow down and start to fade. They are frozen in time at the peak of their career, when tailenders backed fearfully towards the square leg as soon as they see the beast charging towards them.
A modern-day cricket legend
The Australian bowler will always be remembered for his sublime 2013-14 season that established his fearsome reputation and also ensured his place in the Oz fast-bowling pantheon. England, who were down under for the Ashes series, found themselves at the receiving end after Johnson ripped through their batting lineup comprehensively.
The bowling sensation claimed 37 English scalps in the five-match Test series to help Australia inflict a humiliating 5-0 series defeat on the visitors. The next month, Johnson recorded his best bowling spell in the longest format after recording figures of 12/127 in the 1st Test during Australia's tour of South Africa and ended the three-match series with 22 wickets in total.
A key weapon in Johnson's armoury in this purple patch was the uniqueness of his low, slinging action and the always-uncomfortable left-arm trajectory he was catapulting it from.
Even if he is no longer the explosive banter-friendly Midge we've embraced in the past, his performances for the Oz brigade has ensured him a place in the list of intimidating fast bowlers in the modern era of cricket.
Highlights of Johnson's career
- Born in Townsville, Queensland on 2 November 1981, Mitchell Guy Johnson's first sporting love was tennis and his idol was none other than the American legend Pete Sampras.
- At the age of 14, Johnson was offered an opportunity to move to Brisbane to further his tennis career, but he turned it down. It wasn't until the age of 17 that Johnson began focusing on cricket.
- Johnson attended a fast-bowling clinic in Brisbane where former Test legend Dennis Lille identified him as a "once-in-nine-lives prospect".
- Seeing his potential, Lillee contacted former teammate Rod Marsh and got Johnson enrolled in the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide.
- Johnson subsequently played for the Australian under-19 side that toured England in 1999. However, recurrent back injuries hampered his prospects.
- In 2001, Johnson made his first-class debut while playing for his native Queensland against New Zealand in a tour game. On his first delivery as a batsman in first-class cricket, he smashed a towering six to announce his arrival in style.
- Midge made his One-Day Internationals (ODIs) debut on 10 December 2005 against New Zealand where he bowled nine wicket-less overs while conceding 64 runs as Australia succumbed to a two-wicket loss.
- On 26 January 2007, Johnson took 4 wickets in 8 balls during the seventh match of the CB Series against England, for which he earned Man of the Match honours.
- In October 2007 Johnson helped Australia seal the ODI series in India. He finished as the top wicket-taker with 14 wickets, which showed his abilities even on the slow pitches of the sub-continent. In the fifth ODI at Vadodara he took 5/26, his first international five-wicket haul.
- He made his Test debut on 10 November 2007 against Sri Lanka at his home ground in Brisbane. His first wicket in Tests came in the same match when he got Thilan Samaraweera out caught by Adam Gilchrist. He finished the game with figures of 4/96 to help Australia outwit the Lankans by an innings and 40 runs.
- On 27 February 2009, Johnson smashed an unbeaten 96 to help Australia post 466 runs against South Africa in the 1st Test. The Australian hammered Paul Harris for 26 runs in one over, hitting two fours and three sixes, and broke the record for most runs in an over for the his side in a Test match. Johnson also claimed eight wickets in the game.
- In the third Test against South Africa, Johnson smashed a blistering 123 in the second innings for Australia. He was also adjudged Man of the Series for taking 16 wickets and scoring over 250 runs in three matches.
- Following a series of crucial performances for Australia, Johnson was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year in 2009.
- During the 2009 Ashes tour, Johnson was criticised for his poor bowling and lack of control. His position as Australia's bowling spearhead came into question with match figures of 3/200 in the second Test at Lord's.
- He made an impressive comeback in the 2010-11 Ashes series, where he emerged as the leading wicket-taker for Australia with 15 wickets even though he played only four Tests.
- In May 2011, he married former model and karate black belt holder Jessica Bratich-Johnson. The couple was blessed with a daughter named Rubika Anne Johnson in 2012.
- During Australia's tour of India in 2013, Johnson was dropped along with James Pattinson, Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja following a breach of discipline. Australian skipper Michael Clarke revealed that the step was taken as a result of repeated infractions by the players.
- After a year away from international cricket, Johnson made a splendid return to the Australian side during the 2013-14 Ashes series. The bowling sensation claimed 37 English scalps in the five-match Test series to help Australia inflict a humiliating 5-0 series defeat on the visitors.
- In the same year, Johnson continued his fine form during Australia's tour of South Africa where he grabbed 22 wickets in the three-match series. The 2013-14 was arguably Johnson's best year with the left-hander claiming 59 wickets at 15.23, along with a bunch of cherries on helmets and gloves.
- In 2014, Mitchell Johnson was awarded the Allan Border Medal - the most prestigious individual prize in Australian cricket. In the same year, Johnson was also named the ICC Test Player and Cricketer of the Year for his excellence in cricket.
Interesting facts about Midge
- In the 73 Tests he has played, Johnson has taken 313 wickets at an average of 28.40 with the best bowling figures of 12/127 in a match. He has also recorded 12 five-wicket and three ten-wicket hauls in the longer version of the game.
- In the 153 ODIs he has played, Johnson has taken 239 wickets at an average of 25.26 with the best bowling figures of 6/31 in a match. He has also recorded three five-wicket hauls in ODIs.
- Mitchell Johnson has been adjudged Man of the Match in 9 Tests while he has also bagged the honours on six occasions in ODI cricket.
- He is currently the fourth highest wicket-taker in Test matches for Australia, only behind Shane Warne (708), Glenn McGrath (563) and Dennis Lillee (355).
- He is also the third highest wicket-taker among left-arm fast bowlers in Tests, behind Wasim Akram (414) and Chaminda Vaas (355).
- His figures of 8/61 against South Africa at Cape Town in 2008 is the best for a left-arm fast bowler in Test cricket.
- His tally of 37 wickets during the 2013-14 Ashes series at an average of 13.97 is the best by a fast bowler in The Ashes since 1981.
- Johnson also boasts 64 Test wickets against South Africa - most by a bowler since Saffers' return to international cricket in 1992.
- The Australian speedster has taken 78 wickets (in 39 innings) in the 4th innings of a Test match - the second best for any bowler behind Anil Kumble (94).
- He is only the second Australian after Shane Warne to take 300+ wickets and score 2,000+ runs in Test matches. He is also the 13th player overall to achieve the unique feat in Test cricket.