St Mitch atop Fahey Xmas Tree
We have a pet rabbit called Basil. Sometimes I stand by his enclosure and watch him hopping and skipping about, smelling leaves and scratching behind his ears and I wonder what on earth he is thinking.
I used to wonder the same thing watching Mitch Johnson bowling, the only difference being that I’m usually seated whilst Mitch hurls cricket balls at batsmen.
Before this Ashes series started I confidently predicted that Australia would lose 3/1, and that we’d lose 5/0 if Mitch Johnson played. I could be wrong by a margin of ten Tests, which is pretty remarkable in a 5 Test series.
But I wasn’t the only one giving Mitch a hard time. Crikey even his Mum used to break his balls about his cricket and his girlfriends. Fortunately they seemed to have worked things out. The problem was that we spectators never knew what ball he was about to unleash. Apparently his Mum never knew what girlfriend he was about to unveil. Neither did he! He was a walking (cricketing) disaster.
In England a few years back he could hardly hit the pitch. A few deliveries barely landed in the same County. The English press laughed at him. The Barmy Army (an obnoxious bunch of rabble who should be sent to the penal colony called England) sang disparaging songs about him. Then he got the tattoo sleave. He was trying to cover up his bowling inadequacies with artwork. He was brittle, tortured, hurt. And I didn’t help.
I called him a pea heart, a knob, and even a cockhead (mea culpa) after one particularly bad performance. I yelled these things at him from the comfort of my own couch.
“You’re useless Johnson” I would exclaim whilst balancing the chocolate cake on my lap.
“You couldn’t get me out” I bellowed whilst carefully placing my can of Carlton Draught on the side table so as to avoid leaving one of those immovable circle marks in the timber that no one has yet provided a solution to.
“This bloke is a massive dud” I texted to my mates as I let one rip against the leather upholstery.
I was wrong.
“For God so loved the Australian Cricket team, that he gave it the redeemed Mitch Johnson. Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Yes, unlike Tim Flannery, I’m prepared to say I was wrong. I paid no heed to the pain the lurked within Mitch. I gave no regard for the injured pride, the hidden athlete, the burning need for redemption. I underestimated him.
He went away and worked. Then he worked some more. He also grew and matured and changed. It is what we all hope to do; to improve. He did. I didn’t think he had it within him.
I was wrong.
“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me….”
So I say to Mitch, strike me down, I deserve it. Cut out my tongue and gouge out my eyes. Let me know what it is like to be desolate, unloved, unheard, and un-seeing. Throw me to the wolves, burn my trousers and tear the buttons from my shirts. Make one leg grow longer than the other so I stagger and fall. Curse me with one of those nasty little funguses that grow under your toe nails (they’re impossible to kill). Blight me with perpetual wind. Do all these things and more.
But just keep ripping through the Poms!