Sledging ‘vital part’ of game, insists Johnson

Australia's Mitchell Johnson.
Australia's Mitchell Johnson.
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Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson believes Jimmy Anderson has no intention of following through on his own suggestion that sledging should be ditched from the Ashes series, and labelled the England man as one of the worst offenders.

During the 2013 Brisbane Test, Australia captain Michael Clarke memorably warned Anderson to “get ready for a broken f***ing arm” while batting.

The Lancastrian is renowned as a fiery competitor himself, often exchanging heated words with batsmen in the middle, and last year was involved in an altercation with India’s Ravindra Jadeja at Trent Bridge.

Following the recent series against New Zealand, during which the Black Caps won great praise for the way they conducted themselves in an entertaining tour, Anderson said he hoped the Ashes could be played out “in the same nature”.

Johnson, though, gave those words little thought when the inevitable subject of sledging was brought up as he talked to the media ahead of the tour match against Essex in Chelmsford, which starts tomorrow.

“That is interesting coming from him because he is probably one of the biggest ones in the England team. I don’t think anything is going to change. I think he is just trying to get it out there to make himself look better,” said Johnson, who had his own personal spat with Anderson during the 2010 Ashes Test in Perth.

He added: “Do I like it? Who likes getting sledged every day? It has just been part of the game.

“They (crowd) always seem to target particular players, and I have been all over the world. That has been the history of Ashes cricket and probably cricket in general.

“It is always nice to be able to retaliate when you get wickets, and what I have probably noticed is that there is probably a bit more appreciation (from the crowd) when you do do well.”

Queenslander Johnson is certainly no stranger to a bit of on-pitch confrontation.

During the 2013 Adelaide Ashes Test, Johnson clashed with England batsman Ben Stokes, the pair bumping shoulders while running down the wicket, which led to a charge from the International Cricket Council.

Johnson believes the game would be poorer without such rivalry, however.

“I definitely enjoy it. He (Stokes) is just playing the game and is fiery and we like that. We like someone who has got a bit of guts and determination,” he said.

“That is what I love about cricket, having a bit of fire in the game. That is what people want to see in Test cricket.”

Johnson, though, would rather not dwell on past experiences, by his own admission letting the whole occasion overcome him during the 2009 Ashes Tour.

“When I came here, I was playing well at the time, then I remember one of the warm-up games, down in Hove, I had all the media, which was not something I expected at all. I came in and it just blew me away,” he recalled.

“It pretty much started from there.

“I was taken aback by it, did not expect it at all, then the crowds and everything else that came on top of that.

“Now, being able to experience all of that has made me a better player and a better person, that is where I think I have to be able to help the younger guys who have not been through that experience.”

Johnson, who recovered from toe surgery in 2011, tormented England in their last encounter with 37 wickets in the 5-0 thrashing Down Under.

The 33-year-old feels he can make another major impact this summer, appearing in good form when back among the wickets during Australia’s 255-run victory at Kent last week.

Left-arm quick bowler Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will be given their chance to impress at Chelmsford.

Johnson said: “If I am not picked then I will be disappointed, but I will make sure I am ready to go for the next Test, then the next one. That is my job.”