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Mitchell Johnson aims to sizzle on England's green fields

Awesome: Mitchell Johnson in full flight.

Awesome: Mitchell Johnson in full flight. Photo: Getty Images

He might have found a new contentment that comes from being at his peak on the field and at peace off it, but something still burns inside Mitchell Johnson.

It is bewildering to think that this time last year, the selectors did not have Johnson in their top five fast bowlers, leaving him out of the Ashes squad for the winter series in England. He was, he says now, ''gutted''.

''I felt like I was still one of the best fast bowlers in the country but I was told that I wasn’t. That was another motivation for me to work hard,'' he said.

The results of that hard work are still fresh in the minds of all who saw the harm inflicted on England and South Africa last season, but Johnson says there is still plenty he wants to achieve. At the top of his list is next year's Ashes defence in England, where he was lampooned by crowds in 2009.

''I want to perform over there,'' Johnson says. ''To do it on my home turf was really exciting for me. I was really nervous but deep down I knew that I had done all the work. I want to be in front of the crowds over there again. I was very up and down over there [in '09]. I had some good performances but I had some really bad ones as well. I was appreciated when I was playing good cricket, but when I wasn’t I copped it. That is part of the sport but I want to go over there and show them how consistent I can be.

''I want to play another World Cup as well. They are the two goals at the moment. I’m not looking at wickets or anything like that. I just want to perform well for Australia in tough conditions.''

Johnson has just returned from the Indian Premier League, where he worked up a full head of steam for the Punjab Kings XI. By the end of the tournament, he had regained the energy sapped by a summer during which he became the world’s most feared fast bowler and, having recovered from a toe infection that took advantage of his depleted immune system, again nudged speeds of 150km/h. Most of all, he is enjoying his life as a professional cricketer in a way that he didn’t during the testing tours of 2009 (England), 2011 (South Africa, where he broke down with an injury that spared him further on-field misery) and 2013 (India).

It was after that dreadful tour of India, a low point for all in Australian cricket, that Johnson was ignored for the Ashes tour. It’s lucky no one was seriously hurt in the nets at Mohali after he (and three others) were told they had been suspended for a Test, a result of the disciplinary shambles that hardly needs raking over. ''I actually felt quite sorry for Hughesy and Glenn Maxwell at the time, because I wasn’t too concerned for their well-being at that stage,'' Johnson says of his mindset at training after the punishment was handed down. ''I think I apologised to them later that day, but my eyes were rolling in the back of my head.''

The contrast between the ''Angry Mitch'' of March, 2013 and the ''Contented Mitch'' who is gathering his strength for an even busier home summer than the last could not be more pronounced. For all his ferocity on the field, the 32-year-old is essentially a gentle soul who believes the most turbulent moments of his career are behind him.

By the time Johnson joined the one-day squad in England after last year's 3-0 Ashes defeat, the Australian team was a much happier place to be under coach Darren Lehmann. Soon after that, it started winning games again. Of all the things that changed when Lehmann became coach, Johnson says the fresh emphasis on enjoyment is the one that has resonated with him the most, strengthening his resolve to make the most of his time at the top.

You don’t have to look at his $1.12 million IPL price tag to understand that he is now, alongside captain Michael Clarke, one of the most valuable assets in Australian cricket. But he has shelved any plans to drop one of the shorter formats to ensure he is at his very best for the really big series.

''I did say something about maybe dropping Twenty20 off, but at the moment I am happy playing all three forms,'' says Johnson, who will be 33 in November.

''It’s a very short career and I want to try to make the most of it. Now, especially when I’ve hit a bit of form and I’m playing at my best, the more cricket I can play the better. That’s why I played the IPL as well. That’s a bonus. The cash figures that come out of the IPL are unbelievable. Towards the end of your career you’re able to earn that little bit extra which helps for your future, which is another thing you start thinking about as you get older. So I will try and play all three forms as long as I can until that day I don’t enjoy myself any more or my form isn’t any good, then I’ll make a decision. But at the moment, that’s not even close.''

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