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How Johnson left dark days behind
Family ties: Mitchell Johnson with wife Jessica Bratich-Johnson and daughter Rubika. Picture: Getty Images

Several factors have contributed to Mitchell Johnson's rise from rock bottom to Ashes hero. But perhaps the most significant is the 13-month-old girl who points and shouts "dad" when the WA fast bowler is on TV.

Although he is an aggressive, intimidating force on the pitch, the 32-year-old is happy and relaxed off the field and this is behind his remarkable transformation from laughing stock to cricket's demolition man.

A form slump then a foot injury in 2011 left Johnson's career in the balance. But he now believes the enforced time away from the game allowed him to freshen up physically and mentally.

Johnson says the birth of daughter Rubika just over 12 months ago and the influence of SAS hero Ben Roberts-Smith and bowling great Dennis Lillee also played a role in his revival, which was cemented on Sunday with a man of the series trophy for his incredible 37-wicket Ashes haul.

Johnson's wife, former karate champion and handbag designer Jessica Bratich-Johnson, never doubted during the dark times that he would return to the top of his game.

"I told him it wouldn't be the end but he was having a down time and he'd had enough," she recalled yesterday.

"He'd been playing solidly for years and had had some real highs but he hit quite a low and then slowly, slowly hit rock bottom."

During his low point in 2011, Johnson became the target of the Barmy Army, and as the recent Ashes ser-ies got under way, they were ready with their chant: "He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, that Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is sh--e."

But this time around they encountered a different player, beyond the new handlebar moustache, and Johnson's smile on Sunday as he held up five fingers in recognition of the 5-0 whitewash said it all.

Australian captain Mich-ael Clarke could not hide his delight, later declaring: "No one in the world can doubt Mitchell Johnson's character ever again.

"I hate to say I told you all so but I told you all so," he said. "Man of the series . . . who would have thought, except me and probably Mitch? He's as tough a cricketer as I've played with. To have the attitude and hunger to say, 'No, I'm not giving up, I'm going to come back' is a credit to him."

Johnson said he had ret-urned to the game a tougher player - physically and mentally.

"For me, it's having the belief in my own ability that's made me become mentally stronger and not listen to things that have been said, whether it's in the media, a fan or the Barmy Army," he told Mark Taylor in an interview on Channel 9 this week.

Victoria Cross recipient Roberts-Smith also helped Johnson in his journey to peak form. They met two years ago in Brisbane and developed a friendship.

"He's a great man," Johnson said. "It was really good for me to just sit down with someone like that and get an idea of what his thoughts were on things. And I had the opportunity to go out and do a bit of training as well.

"Being able to sit there and chat to a hero, it was an amazing experience."

Roberts-Smith yesterday described Johnson as a "fantastic cricket player and always has been".

"He, like the rest of the team, was all but written off for this series against Eng-land and that's why it's great to see the whole Australian cricket team and the new coach succeed," he said.

"It was their resolve and dedication as a team that was so impressive. That is what the Australian spirit is all about, overcoming adversity together."

Bratich-Johnson said her husband's return to form had been years in the making but becoming parents had been particularly life-changing.

"There's been a lot of input but definitely having a baby gives you perspective as to what's more important," she said. "Time out and time away from the game also helped.

"Cricket consumes your life all year round and you're under the pump and criticised a lot if you're not having amazing games."

Johnson agreed that becoming a father had changed his outlook.

"Having her (Rubika) in our lives now has been a big thing - it puts a perspective on life," he said.

"If I have a bad day on the field, I can come home and see her smiling little face and it puts a smile on my face and it lightens the mood."

Bratich-Johnson and Rubika travelled alongside the team during the Ashes series, after relying on Skype for almost three months when Johnson toured India last year.

Bratich-Johnson said a rigorous fitness regime and the influence of WA bowling legend Lillee had also contributed to Johnson's stellar performance.

"Obviously it's a big credit to him (Lillee) because he scouted him when he was 17 and obviously saw something in him, being a great fast bowler," she said.

After injuring his toe in 2011, Johnson said he would be using his mentor's TUFF acronym - Target, Stand Up, Front arm and Follow-through - as he worked his way back to form.

Two years on, the positive change in Johnson was obv-ious to his teammates when he arrived in India for Australia's one-day tour in October.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was so convinced by his performance he sent a message back home saying: "Mitch is right to go."

"In all honesty I was act-ually shocked when I arrived in India," Haddin said this week. "When I saw how fast he was bowling on the Indian wickets and how comfortable he was with the ball coming out of his hand, it was actually quite scary the pace that was coming out.

"And the pace he was bowling was a lot different to when I'd played with him previously."

Haddin said Johnson's intimidating role in the series, aided by his fearsome moustache, was "nothing short of amazing".

As for the moustache, it will be shaved off as part of Johnson's Movember fundraising campaign but, according to his wife, we can expect it to make a swift return.