Perth: Retiring Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson said he simply lost the hunger to play Test cricket.
The 34-year-old announced his immediate retirement from international cricket before the final day’s play against New Zealand at the WACA Ground on Tuesday.
Johnson said he finalised the decision in the first innings in Perth, when he returned figures of 1-157.
Renowned for his express pace, ferocious bounce and capacity to intimidate, the 34-year-old said while his body was sore, it was the mental aspect of Test cricket that prompted the decision.
“I just lost that hunger in the end to play on those tough days,” he said.
“That was something I used to really enjoy about Test cricket was those challenges of those difficult days out there, but I just wasn’t enjoying it.
“I felt I couldn’t compete at this level any more – on those tough days I didn’t want to be there.
“It was a little bit physical, but it was more the mental side of things, I had just had enough.”
Johnson said it was a decision which had been on his mind for around 12 months, and especially since Australia’s World Cup win.
He said the death of team-mate Phillip Hughes had also weighed heavily on him for some time.
Johnson said it had been an “honour and privilege” to play for Australia and said the most satisfying period of his career was in 2013-14, when he returned from an injury layoff to terrorise batsmen from England and South Africa.
He was recalled to the Australian side and tormented England with blistering pace to take 37 wickets at 13.97 as the home side completed a 5-0 clean Ashes series sweep.
“That was definitely a huge moment in my career,” he said.
“I would have had regrets if I didn’t come back from there and I really enjoyed that challenge.
“I felt like I hadn’t given my best and had a lot to give and that couple of years were really exciting for me.
He said his most satisfying spell was against England in Adelaide in 2013, when he claimed five wickets in quick succession.
Johnson said he was very proud to finish in fourth position on the all-time wicket-taker list for Australia, with 313 scalps at just over 28 apiece.
He said long-time mentor Lillee had counselled him to adjust his bowling style to continue his career for several more years, but he only wanted to keep playing if he could bowl at express pace.
Johnson was also pleased to finish his career in trademark style, with his last Test scalp coming from a rising delivery which Kiwi opener Martin Guptill was only able to fend to Joe Burns at short leg.
The Townsville product noted his first Test was played in his native Queensland, while his final one was in his adopted home state.
After making his first class debut with Queensland in 2001, Johnson got his start in the Test team in 2007 before moving to Western Australia.
His best haul was 8-61 against South Africa, at the WACA in 2008.
Described by long-time mentor Lillee as a “once in a generation” bowler, the former ICC Cricketer of the Year also claimed 239 wickets in 153 one-day internationals.
“He was injury-ravaged early, written off, criticised and probably wondered whether he would ever make it,” said former Test opener and Western Australia’s head coach Justin Langer.
“This in mind, it is a testament to his courage, resilience and skill that he retires as one of Australia’s greatest ever fast bowlers.”
Australia’s fast bowling coach Craig McDermott said Johnson all but handed over the baton as spearhead of the attack during the third and fourth days’ play at the WACA.
As he toiled without his usual zip, Mitchell Starc picked up four wickets in New Zealand’s first innings and on the third day sent down a 160.4 kilometre per hour (99.7 miles per hour) thunderbolt believed to be the fastest ever delivery bowled in Test cricket.
“We probably saw the changing of the guard here two days ago, with Mitchell Starc consistently bowling 150 kilometres an hour,” McDermott said.
Johnson also played 30 Twenty20 internationals and was a handy lower order batsman, with a Test top score of 123 not out and 11 half-centuries.
Former Australian batsman and teammate Mike Hussey said he was shocked at the retirement but noted the pressure of performing for the national team.
“There will be some batsman around the world that will be thankful today that Mitchell Johnson is retiring,” he said.
“He did terrorise a lot of players around the world.