SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia captain Michael Clarke paid fulsome tribute to Mitchell Johnson for his part in the 5-0 Ashes sweep on Sunday, saying nobody could ever again doubt the paceman’s character.
Johnson was awarded the Compton-Miller medal as Man of the Series after taking 37 England wickets over the five tests at an average of below 14.
There are few cricketers more enigmatic than the quietly spoken and introspective Queenslander, whose fortunes over his test career have mirrored those of his country — in his pomp from his debut in 2007 to 2009, with a steady decline and the occasional brilliant performance since.
Recalled for the current series after more than a year in the test wilderness, he buried five years of ridicule from England fans at his sometimes erratic bowling with a barrage of deliveries in excess of 150 kilometres per hour.
For perhaps the first time since the retirement of Glenn McGrath, there was fear in the eyes of the English batsmen, particularly those of the tailenders.
“I hate to say I told you all so, but I told you all so,” Clarke laughed.
“Man of the Series, who would have thought? Except me and perhaps Mitch.
“To be able to bowl at that pace is one thing, to do it for five test matches, every single innings to be able to back it up is an amazing achievement.
“Mitchell’s bowled a couple of spells in this series that are without doubt as good a spell as I’ve seen in my career. And I’ve been lucky enough to play with Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Shane Warne.
“Mitch’s spells certainly match the greats, if not better. He deserves all the credit he’s received, he’s copped a lot of criticism, he’s been dropped from the team.
“No one in the world can doubt Mitchell Johnson’s character ever again. He’s as tough a cricketer as I’ve played with.
“To be able to come back from the criticism he’s copped, to be dropped at an older age and have the attitude and hunger to say ‘no, I’m not going to give up’, credit to him. He deserves the accolades.”
Clarke, in his usual inclusive style, was quick to add that the sweep had been a triumph born in hard work from the whole Australian set-up, including back-room staff and even sponsors.
The Australia captain said the aggressive assault on England’s lower order batsmen by Johnson and his fellow quicks, Peter Siddle and Sydney Man-of-the-Match Ryan Harris, had not come about by chance.
“We spoke at the start of the series and we had set plans for individual batters,” he said.
“The moment numbers eight, nine 10, 11 walked in, we knew we were going to hit them as hard as we could with short stuff. We planned that before a ball was bowled in this series.
“It’s easy to have plans but it takes skill and courage to execute it. I said to the boys at the start of the series that I thought they were the best attack in the world and I think they’ve shown that in five test matches.”
Johnson, still sporting the distinctive moustache he grew for charity in November but retained as a symbol of his rediscovered form, said he was glad it was all over.
“I’m absolutely exhausted now,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s a huge relief to finish the test series.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty