Tag Archives: Mitchell Johnson

Johnson – Good Sport

Johnson Good Sport

The Squire and Third Man have seen all the great ‘quicks’ produced by the game of cricket, from David Harris to … to Johnson. And their opinion? Johnson entertained them more than any other. And frightened them in equal measure.

This is a man who could bowl a short pitched ball which, depending on the random orientation of the seam, could lift off like Saturn spinning through space and still be rising as it flew over the keeper’s head thirty yards back, or stay, as if at his command, lower than the rolls of the batsman’s pads, OR heights anywhere between these extremes discombobulating the batsman.

And, depending on the point of release, he could fire the ball two yards outside off stump or two yards outside leg and any direction between those extremes … and he would frequently do so within a single spell.

His physique and deportment were those of the Olympic athlete. His approach when full out delivered him to the crease like a piston driven engine, and then there was that ‘curvy flick’ of a drag from the trailing leg that appropriately each ball wrote a question mark in the air an inch above the bowling crease.

His presence was both unsettling and somehow hilarious.

Throughout his triumphs and disasters he was both ‘good sport’ and ‘a good sport’. People laughed at him but only when he was down. They did so like children prodding a dead snake and running in panic and hysteria when it appeared to strike back.

In 2013 Lehmann rescued him from the wilderness of confusion and gave him back to lovers of fast bowling.

His destruction of Jonathan Trott that summer and winter must qualify as one of cricket’s great tragedies and rank alongside anything staged by the ancient Greeks. Here, before our eyes, was what CLR James had known.

And the puzzle and the delight?

Johnson, this incarnation of Nemesis, this deliverer of retribution, approached his victim in the form of a cartoon character. How modern is that?!


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Shadowrun – Meeting Mr Johnson


For a batsman there is nothing more exciting and, yes, more enjoyable on a cricket field than facing a quick bowler on a decent track. Batting at the United Services Ground, Portsmouth was what the great game – that is The Bat, The Ball and The Very Quick – was all about.

Somewhere in the multiverse Roy Marshall is facing John Snow every day of the week. At the other end Barry Richards or Gordon Greenidge are waiting their turn. No helmets.

It is what all those hours of development were for – a great challenge and the most electrifying release of the best adrenalin that you will ever experience outside of a battle field.

That is why the hook is so addictive. The intensity of that last picture of the ball in front of the nose and the gloves coming across the field of vision and the unique feeling of a timed hook, the fleeting, collaborating glance as the ball sails 45 degrees towards the boundary. The sense of rotation.  More! Gimme more!

Some people say that ‘no one likes facing a really quick bowler. That’s only half right. Try facing John Snow on a feather bed at Lord’s … then pop down to Hove to meet his elephantine memory on something ‘tidal’.

What batsmen dread is bounce they can’t ‘read’. It is always disconcerting.  For some, the control freaks, it can be more than can be borne, like a good young mathematician going into an exam and finding for the first time a problem they can’t immediately solve.

And that is what facing Mitchell Johnson appears to be like.  Every element of a batsman’s experience says that this ball headed this way in these conditions will bounce to this height. And they’re six or seven inches out and it’s too late to bail out. Or worse … the next ball maybe so.

That is why Johnson’s recent accuracy is part of it.  When one in fifty can hit you the human psyche can blank out that possibility, not when ‘it’s’ going to happen sometime in this over.

Andy Robert’s surprise bouncer. Recollections of those who faced S.F. Barnes. Third Man can still recall facing David Harris as if it were yesterday. Illegibility. Mystery. Threat. The Proximity of the Knowable Unknown.

It must take a bit of getting used to when facing Lasith Malinga but his lift and  bounce, like that of Alfred Mynn is nothing near as anomalous  and mentally disintegrating as that of the supremely strong Johnson, with the slightly higher action.

Is there also an element of swing (not out or in swing) but because of the low action and the seam position this provides, might not the swing be down into the pitch steepening the angle of incidence, increasing the steepness of the bounce? That would explain a great deal.

Changing a well grooved physical routine is difficult but changing a well grooved mental reaction to a stimulus is a hundred times harder.

Maybe you could find a five foot bowler able to fling it down at 100mph onto a fielding ramp positioned 8 meters short of the batter.

Someone soon will re-programme their batting reactions and there shall be a contest. Or you could stay indoors and play Shadowrun


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Cricket, Meet the Millennials


England’s turmoil in Australian is unmasking some good old crisis-induced cognitive dissonance. (Pace Stayte and thanks for the image)

Over at Cricinfo, England’s performance at Adelaide elicited a broadside from George Dobell listing factors that, in his opinion, have weakened English cricket.

He is especially harsh on even tries to sledge young cricketers, writing that, “The decision to rid the domestic scene of non-England-qualified players and offer young player incentives saw a generation of experienced professionals replaced by kids who should have been forced to work harder for a career in the game.” (TM’s underlining)

Yet there is general admiration for the way Joe Root handled Mitchell Johnson’s verbal as well as his physical assaults.

Fewer people seem to have noticed the similarly disarming stage yawn with which Ben Stokes countered Johnson’s histrionics and sent ‘the old man’ off on one.

Nothing you can do can ‘mentally disintegrate’ a person who, in terms of the cultural and social environment you and they have grown up in, is to all intents and purposes of a different genus.

You might as well try sledging a duck? Or a cow? Or a tortoise?

They just find you mildly amusing AND because the cultural and social environment that they inhabit – and to which you are a total stranger – is a world of Instagram and Snapchat where Messenger is as far back in time as Linear B there’s:

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy.
There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time – It’s easy.

“Thank you John.”

You see, there’s a dividing line that runs roughly through 1990.  Anyone born before this is, as far as anyone born after it, FROM ANOTHER PLANET.

Cricket – Meet the Millennials.

They’re going to surprise you and, not just because of their imperviousness to antediluvian sledging, they are going to be fun to follow.

A CBS news feature reports, “The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first.”

In cricket, the Millennials have been coming up against overseas pros like Ol’ Man Johnson from the age of 14 in their premier leagues.  They have been playing with and against each other from the age of 11. The weak ones, the ones that couldn’t react with a rye ‘smile’ or impertinent ‘yawn’ or as one young lad did to huge effect: blow the big angry fast bowler a kiss; have already been weeded out.

Dobell underestimates the heat of the fire in which these young cricketers have been forged. Why should they flaunt it? Would they expect a duck, a cow or a tortoise to understand them?

The other thing that separates them from every cricketer that has gone before is not just their ways of relating to each other it is the different types of cricket they have had to learn to play: 5 day, 4 day, 3 day, 1 day and T20. For them cricket is a hoot-n-nanny of ever changing opportunities to experience delight. There is no fear – perpetual and unconditional parental approval has given them a rare freedom.

These changing formats also bring difficulties.  Their hands are low, they slap, they are often strangers to their ‘elbows’, they only know relatively light bats with massive sweet spots – their edges fly over the ropes – light bats? Well, look at their physiques.  They can wield a 2:10 with the same bat-speed and dexterity with which the great Zaheer Abbas flicked his 2:4. They could be quick – very quick – if the ducks and cows and tortoises give them their head – and the rotations they can put on the ball will make it turn on a billiard table.

That is why England cricket doesn’t need globe-trotting hacks from the paleolithic, Mr Dobell.  It needs to give these born entertainers space to learn and develop and take the game where no one born before 1985 can imagine,   (Look what those Millennials from Lancashire did in 2011?)

The nearest that fossils over 24 can get to it, is to imagine what it was like when they first heard the rest of those Lennon lyrics:

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.
It’s easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Johnson, Love is All You Need.


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Taming Mitchell Johnson – Turin’s Secret Revealed


It is a small tragedy that there are no existent photographs of Alan Turing playing cricket – facing some demon fast bowler with aplomb.

Overnight, Third Man and the Squire, have made their way into the England team’s hotel  and left on the whiteboard in their meeting room Turing’s advice to batsmen:

“It is easy to show using standard theory that if a system starts in an eigenstate of some observable, and measurements are made of that observable N times a second, then, even if the state is not a stationary one, the probability that the system will be in the same state after, say, one second, tends to one as N tends to infinity; that is, that continual observations will prevent motion …”

To Third Man’s way of looking at the world it’s a perfect expression of that old dictum: “Watch the Ball”.

But the Squire insists: Expect the Ball.

See also The vanishing Cricket Ball Illusion – Seeing into the Future and Wire the Brain for Batting Gain


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