Cricket news 2021: Mitchell Johnson mind games during 2013/14 Ashes demolition


The Ashes are as much a mental battle as they are a physical one, and the Aussies employed mind games during the 2013/14 campaign.

Eight years ago today, Australia unveiled its 12-player squad for the Gabba Test of the 2013/14 Ashes series.

A few months earlier, the Australians were humbled 3-0 by a classy England outfit on foreign soil, and cricket pundits predicted a similar outcome for the upcoming series.

During the squad announcement, Australian captain Michael Clarke predicted that Mitchell Johnson, who had not featured in the previous Ashes, would be Player of the Series.

“He’s in good rhythm and bowling with good pace,” he said at the time.

“So we’re confident he will acquit himself very well and he will be a bowler to the fore in our attack.”

But Clarke could not have possibly predicted what Johnson would achieve over the following eight weeks.

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The left-armer claimed 37 wickets at 13.97 in one of the most celebrated performances in Ashes history.

Johnson led Australia towards a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, a feat that had only been achieved twice prior.

His pace and relentless accuracy was something Australian cricket fans had not witnessed since Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson terrorised England’s batters in the late 1970s.

The Ashes are as much a mental battle as they are a physical one, and the Australians employed mind games during the unforgettable 2013/14 campaign to unsettle England’s players.

“We didn’t want to talk to the England players when we saw them,” Johnson told news.com.au, speaking as an ambassador for Booking.com.

“We actually gave them nothing. That was a part of the mental games we were playing. We didn’t want to be friendly with them and we didn’t want them to be friendly with us, and I think it took them back a little bit. And they didn’t like it, so it worked.

“That was something we’d spoken about in the lead-up.”

England’s players have confessed to feeling scared of Johnson’s bowling throughout that Ashes campaign, — Graeme Swann retired after the Perth Test and Kevin Pietersen never represented his country again after the New Year’s Test in Sydney.

Johnson said the Australian bowlers wanted to go particularly hard at England’s tailenders, especially Stuart Broad, who had developed a knack of contributing valuable runs in the lower order.

“We thought Stuart Broad was a danger down the order and could get a few extra runs on the board,” Johnson recalled.

“We just wanted to go hard at them, and that was a really clear plan.”

And the strategy worked wonders — Johnson dismissed Broad four times while conceding just 20 runs during the series.

Broad and his England teammates arrived on Australian shores earlier this week, with the Ashes squad commencing their training at Metricon Stadium on Thursday.

Among them was Ben Stokes, the superstar all-rounder who recently returned from a mental health break. He made his Test debut during the 2013/14 Ashes, and finished the series as England’s lone centurion.

Johnson, who last year opened up about his long-term battle with depression, questioned how Stokes would perform after a lengthy stint away from the game, during which he also underwent two finger operations.

“I sort of wonder which way he’s going to go after having some time away from the game,” Johnson said.

“There’s obviously some stuff going in on in his life that’s had an impact on him. He could come back pretty fresh and pretty clear, or he could come out and not perform, we don’t know.

“Once something’s in your head, it’s pretty hard to break that.

“Through my career, I definitely knew that there was something going on in my mind that wasn’t quite right, having some really low days.

“But I sort of turned it into a strength – built some resilience. It made me who I am.

“Cricket was something that helped in a lot of ways as well.”

Stokes was England’s standout performer during the 2019 Ashes, famously stealing victory from the jaws of defeat at Headingley with a career-defining 135 not out.

The shock defeat hurt the Aussies — as seen in Amazon docu-series The Test — but Johnson warned against focusing too much on Stokes during the upcoming Ashes campaign.

“(Headingley) definitely had an impact on a few of the players in the Australian team,” he said.

“If there’s games that come down to the wire, you could see the Australian team get a little worried, but hopefully they’ve moved on from that.

“Players of Ben Stokes’ calibre can change a game just like that … he’s a dangerous player, and he’s had some experience in Australia.

“You can’t have that focus on one player.

“It does have an effect on the way that you play if you’re thinking about Ben Stokes and worried about what he’s going to do and how good he is. You’ve just got to put all that aside.”

Johnson recently teamed up with Booking.com, the official Accommodation Booking Partner for this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

Booking.com found that 62 per cent of Aussie sport fans would travel with their family to watch a Cricket World Cup, proving that sporting events will support travel recovery over the coming months.

On Wednesday, New Zealand defeated tournament favourites England to book its spot in Sunday’s T20 World Cup Final, where they will face either Australia or Pakistan.



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Author: Shirley