Written by Alan Johnson, for TecTorque Autumn 2014
TecTorque: Welcome to TecTorque Mitch and congratulations on a magnificent summer both as a team and you personally, and topped off with by winning the Allan Border Medal for Australian Cricketer of the Year.
Johnson: Thanks, and thanks for the opportunity to be part of TecTorque. This summer has been a lot of fun for the team and from the feedback of people we have met around the country the spectators and fans have enjoyed it too.
The AB Medal was complete surprise and I was delighted to win it, and also to get the chance to publically acknowledge the role my wife, teammates and a whole bunch of people that played a part in helping me back into the Test team.
TecTorque: And being back in the team made you a target for the Barmy Army again?
Johnson: They are great supporters of their team and travel long distances to make themselves heard, it adds to the atmosphere at games and I think, despite copping some stick from them, they respect the fact we are giving our all for Australia.
TecTorque: Did the series result surprise you?
Johnson: We knew in England that things were beginning to come together and we agreed to continue to play aggressive, positive cricket and to work even harder.
We weren’t happy with the 0-3 scoreline in England, and it may not have been a true indication of the gap between the teams, but the signs were there that if we continued to improve we could win at home.
TecTorque: So did the team and you personally prepare differently for the Ashes at home?
Johnson: Some of the team played in the One Day Series in India and although a shorter form of the game we worked on things in preparation for the Tests at home.
I think fitness was a key issue in the series as there was a lot of bowling to do during a hot summer and our support team did a great job making sure we could back up, even with short turnaround between Tests.
TecTorque: And Australia kept the same bowling attack for each of the five tests?
Johnson: Yes, that was always our goal and the bowling attack shared the workload. It wasn’t just the quick bowlers either, Nathan Lyon was really important applying pressure, getting vital wickets, and allowing the fast bowlers to rotate in short bursts which worked very well.
TecTorque: You finished the series with 37 wickets. Did you have a number of wickets in mind before the series started?
Johnson: No, not really. I knew I had to play my part. It is the same with all of the bowlers, we would rather have won a test and taken no wickets, than take a bagful of wickets and lost the test.
Sometimes you can bowl well and not necessarily get the reward with wickets, and at other times things fall into place. It’s important to have a plan and work on it. And it is great when the plan works; otherwise the Captain and the team discuss things and may change something.
This series there was quite a few times when we made field changes and then bowled to them with success.
TecTorque: And what about the “Mo” it became as much of a talking points as the wickets you were taking?
Johnson: Yes, it was a lot of fun. I originally spoke to my wife Jess and she thought it was a good idea to support and highlight Movember and Men’s health.
After the first test win we didn’t want to change a thing and when the second Test came around in early December the Mo stayed, and remained part of the team until the end of the Fifth test in Sydney.
With the support of Cricket Australia and the public we were able to contribute over $40,000 to the Movember appeal.
TecTorque: And then Jess had the pleasure of shaving it off live on television; will it be back?
Johnson: At this stage… probably, I may grow it back for South Africa so let’s see.
TecTorque: You suffered a pretty serious foot injury a couple of seasons ago; did you ever doubt you could come back?
Johnson: No, I knew if I took time away from the game and did the rehab, and then built my fitness back up, that once I started bowling again I could be effective. A lot of people helped me through the injury and having the support of my wife Jess and our daughter Rubika at home made the hard work worthwhile.
TecTorque: Has marriage and fatherhood changed you at all?
Johnson: I am probably not the right person to ask, but it is great to share the highs and lows with people who are going through it with you.
I am lucky Jess is a sportsperson herself and so understands; sometime it is tough juggling travel and home life. Thanks goodness for technology which allows us to see and speak to each other wherever I am in the world, and she has her own business which also keeps her busy. TecTorque: Talking about keeping busy how did the relationship with Blackwoods develop.
Johnson: In 2006 Blackwoods was looking for someone to represent their business as a Brand Ambassador and contacted my Manager Sam Halvorsen when I was playing in Queensland. Sam discussed what role an Ambassador fills for the business with them and it is something I was keen to do. Blackwoods introduced a TAFE Award and I played a part in getting the message out to young tradespeople about safety and where to get their gear. It went from there and we are now in our 8th year of our partnership. TecTorque: Are there similarities between Blackwoods and what you do as a fast bowler?
Johnson: Apart from the obvious ones of speed, accuracy and teamwork, I think being resilient, and always giving 100% are important and they are things we share TecTorque: So are you regularly involved with Blackwoods?
Johnson: It is tough when I travel, but when in Australia I have visited a lot of Blackwoods branches, in every State, at new branch openings and at customer events.
For example, in mid January I got to meet the Blackwoods team in Sydney and really enjoyed it, and I think they did too…perhaps except for one or two pommies in the team!
I have met a lot of great people and I hope I have represented their brand well too. This year I will also be letting Blackwoods customers know what’s happening with our cricket via blackwoods.com.au which will be fun and may even get to catch up with their New Zealand people as well.
TecTorque: Speaking about technology, are you a fan of the Decision Review System (DRS) where teams can ask for close decisions to be reviewed by a third umpire?
Johnson: If used correctly, and if it doesn’t slow the game too much, then I think anything that helps get decisions right is a good thing.
The umpires do a good job over a long period, and often have a split second to make a decision; I think they too want to get every decision right if they can.
TecTorque: Despite being at the top of your game right now, have you thought about what you may want to do when your days of bowling at 150kph are over?
Johnson: I hope it is at least a few years off, but when I stop playing cricket perhaps there may be opportunities around coaching the next generation of players, or in using my experiences in fitness, health , training, diet and rehabilitation to help not only athletes but individuals and businesses as well.
TecTorque: So what is on your plate for 2014?
Johnson: We are playing South Africa this year, they are ranked number one Test team in the world and we are playing them in South Africa.
This will be a big test for us and we want to continue improvement, play some good cricket and continue to build momentum. It won’t be easy for our bowlers and our batsmen but we are up for the challenge. We have the same bowling attack as we did for England, with some reinforcements as well.
And after South Africa I am hoping to play in the Indian Premier League, playing with and against guys from around the world that I have respected for years.
On the personal side we are building a new house so that will also keep me busy.
TecTorque: From all of us at Blackwoods, and also cricket fans everywhere, Good luck this year, congratulations on the Ashes success, the Allan Border Medal and also in entering the 8th year of your Blackwoods Ambassadorship.