Yes, it’s time for the build-up to begin. On Tuesday it is 100 days until the biggest rivalry in cricket rolls onto Australia shores, when the first ball is bowled in the 2010/11 Ashes Series. We mark the start of the countdown by speaking to reigning world cricketer of the year, Australia’sMitchell Johnson.
Hi Mitchell. You’re just back from a series draw with Pakistan. Were you disappointed with the result?
On a team basis, it was not what we wanted to achieve. Obviously we wanted to win the series, but Pakistan bowled very well. As a bowling unit we didn’t really use the conditions to the best of our abilities. Looking back, on the personal side, I was pretty disappointed. I had my moments when I thought I’d hit a rhythm and just didn’t get any luck, but that’s just the way the game goes.
Is it too early to start getting excited about the Ashes?
It’s probably on everyone’s mind to be honest. We want to be playing, building up to be at our best when we come up against England.
Why are the Ashes so important?
You grow up watching it, you get excited and all pumped up. But being involved in it was just a whole new story. Thinking back, when we first rocked up [to the Ashes in England], and the media we had to deal with, it was just realising that this was full on. It’s a massive rivalry. Part of the reason we play cricket for our country is to play against England.
Do you still get nervous before matches?
I still do get nervous, whatever series it is. The first walk out there, and my first over or so… I guess the anticipation of it all when you don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s a good thing to have those nerves I think. I know I’m ready to go and really want to play the game.
Do you have more responsibility now you’re a senior member of the squad?
Yeah, especially on the last trip. I woke up to the fact I’m now one of the most senior guys. It’s quite strange. On the field I can do it fine, I like encouraging the guys and trying to help out when I can. When It comes to more serious issues I probably still have to step up a bit. I remember coming into the side, you had guys like Glenn McGrath, he’d step up and do the media when we had had a bad defeat or something.
How good was being awarded world cricketer of the year?
That was pretty exciting, I didn’t expect it at all after going through the Ashes. I guess I did a fairly decent job throughout that year, with the ball and the bat. It’s nice to have those personal achievements, but you don’t want to have personal achievements like that if you’re not winning. The guys do give me a little bit of stick about it now and then, but that’s all good.
Last time the Ashes were in Australia, England was thrashed 5-0. How do you expect it to go this time around?
Obviously we would like to win well, it would look pretty nice on the résumé, ha. But England have been playing very well, they’ve got a very good side at the moment, a lot of experienced players at their peak. I guess for us we really have to look at our side. We’ve got a lot of options, we just’ve got to find the right balance. We are playing well at the moment, not our best, but we’re hoping to build up to get to our peak for that first Ashes game.
Is home advantage a big factor?
Definitely. It definitely helped England. You can tell when the crowd lifts, it lifts their players. We normally get that feeling when we are home, the crowd loves seeing good cricket. I think it’s going to be a lot closer then anyone can think, but it’s going to be a good series.
England have been very successful in Twenty20 and one-day cricket this year. Is that important?
I separate those. I don’t think it will have any impact on the Test matches. Ah, they can try and ride off that if they want, but it’s different squads. You can probably get a little bit of confidence out of it, but you don’t want to be living in the past.
Is there anyone on the England squad that you think will really impress?
I think Stuart Broad will be one of the main men, if not the main man. Batting and bowling, he’s very talented, he’s got the height advantage, he bowls good pace and bounce. On our wickets, if he gets his length right, he’s going to be very hard to face. Plus he’s on a bit of a roll. I think he’s going to be one of their danger men.
Check out the Cricket Australia Travel Office for Ashes travel packages. www.crickettraveloffice.com.au. The five Tests will be in Brisbane (Nov 25-29), Adelaide (Dec 3-7), Perth (Dec 16-20), Melbourne (Dec 26-30) and Sydney (Jan 3-7).