Way back in the mists of time, we wrote an article looking at the career of one Mitchell Guy Johnson, specifically looking at the two halves of it. Before the 2009 Ashes he was good. Since the 2009 Ashes he was bad. It was a pretty clear cut case: he was finished. Of course, like every prediction we’ve ever made, we were hopelessly wrong. After a couple more wilderness years, Mitchell finally re-discovered his mojo and began to bowl fast and, heaven forbid, accurately. In terms of unexpected finales, it’s right up there with The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis has been dead all along), The Usual Suspects (Kevin Spacey’s character is Keyser Soze and he’s making the entire story up) and Baby’s Day Out (the baby is actually on the run from his parents because they repeatedly touch him inappropriately).
Since his return to the Australian Test side in November, Mitch’s figures are astonishing: in eight matches he’s taken 59 wickets at 15.24. That’s a whopping 7.4 wickets per match. To put that into some sort of perspective, if he’d done that throughout his 59 match career, he’d have 435 and a bit wickets, rather than the paltry 264 that he’s currently stuck on. Plus he’d be really, really annoyed about being dropped for most of 2012 and 2013.
Even the greatest Test wicket taker of all time, Murali, only managed 6.02 wickets per match. Amongst players who weren’t chuckers, only Dennis Lillee (5.07), Dale Steyn (5.03) and Richard Hadlee (5.01) have more than five, at least of those on the first page of Cricinfo Statsguru results. There’s probably loads of players who had short Test careers but a better wickets per game average (Richard Johnson is one that springs to mind, with 5.33 wickets per Test across his three epic appearances), but we just don’t care about them, so please don’t feel you have to list them in the comments section.
Incidentally, prior to his recall, Mitch was at 4.02 wickets per game but is now at 4.47. It’s impressive stuff.
The question of quite how Johnson has been reborn is an interesting one. There are a number of theories currently doing the rounds, some of them involving Dennis Lillee helping rebuild his run-up and action. We don’t buy that sort of technical nonsense for one second, instead preferring to go for some rumours that we read on the internet one night.
Clearly what’s happened here is that Mitchell Johnson has sold his soul to the devil in return for a second chance at Test cricket. The facial hair clearly wasn’t that of a human – no man not possessed by evil would choose to have that on his mug – so must have been the devil’s marker, a sign that Johnson was his plaything.
Of course, the devil being the nasty bugger that he is, he soon returned to collect his prize. What started out as just a scratch on Mitch’s toe in the third Test in South Africa suddenly turned into a foot infection. From there it spread to his leg. His IPL millions threatened to slip through his fingers once again. But then he got some antibiotics and it cleared up.
The moral of the story is clear: if you dance with the devil, you have to pay the piper. Which actually would have made a much better tagline for Baby’s Day Out, now that you think about it.