London - Mitchell Johnson is relishing the prospect of a few heated
exchanges with England firebrand Ben Stokes, but he hopes the home supporters
will keep it clean off the pitch.
The Australian fast bowler is chomping at the bit to get stuck into the old
cricketing enemy with the opening Ashes Test in Cardiff next week.
Johnson, 33, insists it could be his last Test battles with England and that
retaining the urn would mean the world to him.
All-rounder Stokes is one England player who he expects will prove a tough
opponent during the five-Test campaign starting on July 8.
Stokes has built a reputation for having a short fuse and a volatile temper.
A recent clash with West Indian Marlon Samuels, who rebuked and ribbed his
young English rival in the Caribbean, proved Stokes is very much up for an
"Stokes is just playing the game and he's fiery. We like that. We like
someone who has got a bit of guts and determination," he said on Monday.
"We spoke about him throughout the last series. He was the only guy who
really fought from the England team. He also stirred up a few of the West
Indians out there recently.
"We weren't sure why he wasn't picked in the World Cup squad. It's
always nice to play against real competitors.
"Virat Kohli is the same. He's very competitive on the field and they
are nice guys off it. People want to see a bit of fire in Test match
Johnson is bracing himself for plenty of hostility from the English crowds.
Others such a Ricky Ponting and Jason Gillespie have been singled out in the
past, and Johnson says: "Do I like being cast as the pantomime villain?
Who likes being sledged every day!
"It's been part of the game and they always seem to target particular
players. It's been the history of the Ashes and cricket in general. I've been
targeted all over the world.
"The England fans didn't give up in the last series back home. I
remember we won in Perth and even Sydney where they were saying things.
"It was a bad situation for them and they were just trying to enjoy
themselves. They pay their money and they want to enjoy it.
"All I notice is there is a bit more appreciation when you do well. For
once I'm not copping it when I'm just walking down the street, which is always
"I remember in 2010 in Australia I was walking down the street with my
wife and copping abuse from about ten English blokes. In my own country! That
was disappointing because I was with my wife and it was disrespectful.
"It was pretty full on and hurt at the time but I've been able to grow
from that and those things don't affect me now. It's just words and I know
where I am as a person. If it was a little bit of banter I would have laughed
but it went too far and it was crossing the line."
With Ryan Harris fit and back swinging the ball, Johnson knows he is
fighting for his place.
He bowled fast and took wickets against Kent in the warm-up win but now has
to see if he will get the nod.
He admits: "There are a couple of places available and there is healthy
competition going on. If ever there was a cloud or question mark over me I just
wanted to show I am bowling well and up for it.
"I've given myself every opportunity to play in the opening Test. If
I'm not picked I'll be disappointed but I will make sure I will be ready for
the next match and then the next.
"I'm determined to be involved because this is probably my last Ashes
"It would mean a lot to perform to my best and for the team to do the
same and win the Ashes here. Winning the World Cup was one major goal and now
this is another."