Mitchell Johnson has credited fatherhood for his sensational form over the past few months. Johnson, whose wife Jessica Bratich gave birth to his daughter Rubika a few months ago, bowled Australia to a 5-0 Ashes whitewash over England with a Man of the Series effort of 37 wickets, including six in the 281-run win in the fifth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.
"It (fatherhood) definitely changes your perspective. I'm really enjoying myself more than I was 18 months ago,' Johnson was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph. "Even if I bowl a bad over, I can think about the good things in my life." (Read: full story in Daily Telegraph)
This Ashes series has seen a remarkable turnaround for Johnson, who may not have even been in the squad if Mitchell Starc or James Pattinson had been fit. During the 2009 Ashes, Johnson was involved in a public feud with his mother which coincided with a downturn in form and ridicule from opposition fans. Considered to be physically and mentally fragile, Johnson admitted that he was affected by the 'abuse' but time away from the game helped.
Following the tumultuous 2009 Ashes, Johnson suffered a toe injury that forced him away from the game for seven months. His father, Kevin, however reckons that it was 'the best thing that happened to him'. "He was under the pump and it gave him a break from the game. He must have thought he would give it a real crack otherwise he would not be playing again," Johnson's father added.
Johnson has now transformed himself into a ferocious competitor and his sledging contests with Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root during the Ashes were particularly entertaining. The 32-year-old also indicates that returning to the Australian Test squad during a home series was ideal.
"You come home from what may not have been your best day and you've got your family there. Your little one smiles at you and it just makes everything better," he said.
For the record, Johnson produced the best bowling performance by an Australian left-arm pacer in any Test series. His tally of 37 wickets, an Australian record for any left-arm speedster in the Ashes, is only leveled by Bill Witty, who took the same number of scalps at an average of 17.08 in five Tests against South Africa way back in 1910-11.
Johnson is now a permanent fixture in the Australian ODI and Tests squads. Amazingly, he was named Man of the Match three times in the recent Ashes that took his total tally to eight in 56 Tests. His Man of the Match strike rate puts him ahead of Aussie greats Glenn Mcgrath (11 in 124 Tests) and Shane Warne (17 from 154 Tests), who picked up these awards for fun.