Australia v New Zealand Tests

Watson 'shocked' by Johnson retirement

Close friend and former teammate surprised by fast bowler's decision to walk away from international cricket

Sam Ferris

17 November 2015, 06:47 PM

Mitchell Johnson announces retirement

Australia allrounder Shane Watson says he was "shocked" when he read a text message from Mitchell Johnson that said he was retiring from all forms of cricket immediately.

Full Story: Johnson calls time on cricket career

Watson received the message this morning only hours before it was announced the 34-year-old left-arm fast bowler would conclude his exceptional international career on day five of the second Commonwealth Bank Test at the WACA Ground.

Johnson indicated prior to this Test that it could be his last, but Watson says he thought he would walk away from just the five-day format and continue in limited-overs cricket, just like Watson did following the Ashes this winter.

Which is why the news almost reduced Watson to tears, knowing he would no longer have the opportunity to play alongside one of his closest friends in an Australian shirt again.

"I had a bit of an idea that he was potentially thinking about it (retirement) and contemplating it but not to this extent to retire from all forms," Watson told cricket.com.au.

"I was really shocked this morning when I got a message from Mitch to say that he was retiring from all forms.

"When I knew I was retiring from Test cricket I always thinking ‘I've still got some games with my good mate’.

"I've still got a few games hopefully for Australia in one-day and T20 cricket still for a little while longer.

"So the thought of that not happening is quite an emotional time.

"I've been playing cricket with Mitch since I was 17, and we've been very good friends over that time.

"To know that one of my good friends is moving on in one part of his life just hits home how all good things must end at some stage." 

WATCH: Johnson's 37 2013-14 Ashes wickets

Johnson has been one of Watson's closest friends since the pair first met at an Under-19 Queensland Camp.

Travelling from Queensland's far north major of city of Townsville, Johnson stayed with Watson in Brisbane, with the allrounder driving the raw quick to and from the camp each day.

Quick Single: Johnson's top eight performances

The ultra-talented duo were destined for the Baggy Green, and for a majority of the 43 Tests they played together, Watson had the best seat in the house to watch Johnson intimidate, frighten and ultimately dismiss opposition batsmen.

It was Johnson's second-coming in Test cricket, the 2013-14 Ashes, that Watson remembers most fondly, when the lethal speedster bowled with fire and brimstone.

"It was privilege to be able to play with Mitch, especially when it really all clicked with him, you could just see it was the perfect time in every single part (of his life), the perfect storm in the lead up to that Ashes series, and then he just exploded," Watson said.

"Mitch was always incredibly gifted and skilful and did a great job, but to see him at his absolute peak in that Ashes series and the next two years … to see the fear in the batsman's eyes.

"To be in first slip and to know you had that weapon in your attack was just incredible. It's so intimidating.

"To have that intimidation was along the lines of when Brett Lee was his absolute best and bowling super-fast.

"It's a different ball game (facing extreme fast bowling), to be in the field, in pole position at first slip and to Mitch as well … oh my goodness." 

WATCH: Johnson's career remembered 

The fear-factor Johnson possessed produced 589 international wickets, using the searing pace he generated from a slingy action to full effect in a career spanning a decade in the green and gold.

Watson says the world's bravest and most courageous batsmen were intimidated by Johnson's hostile bowling, and he can't blame them.

"Even someone who never showed any fear was Kevin Pietersen, and in that Ashes you could see he was on edge, and admitted he was on edge, and why wouldn't he be?" Watson said.

"Mitch was bowling super-fast, accurate, aggressively, and sustained it throughout the whole day.

"Even the guys who were fearless, it was hard not to have any fear there.

"He was so hostile every time he bowled. It didn't have to be on a fast bouncy wicket either."

While Watson was in the slip cordon waiting for a catch, former Australia opener Chris Rogers was patrolling the outfield when Johnson was motoring in off his long run.

Quick Single: Johnson's career timeline

Rogers was "lucky" enough to face Johnson in the nets, fronting up to express fast bowler who had a brand new ball in his hand and often ignoring where his front foot landed in relation to the popping crease.

"There's a few people you're lucky enough to play with in your career that you'll remember, you'll look back and go 'he was one of the guys I was so lucky enough to play with', and he was," Rogers told cricket.com.au.

"He was just different from anyone else you ever played with. As a person, he's a lovely human being. Probably a bit misunderstood a little bit. A down to earth guy who had a different side other people didn't see.

"Facing him in the nets was one of those challenges you hated and loved. If you got through one of them you knew you'd earned it.

"Particularly before the Phil Hughes tragedy, he used to practice his bouncers on the top order. That was some of the scariest stuff I've ever faced." 

WATCH: Johnson destroys South Africa in Centurion 

And like Watson, Rogers can recall when Johnson was at his peak during the 2013-14 Ashes and the following tour to South Africa, where it felt like the quick was on another level.

"I can remember spells where he just won games on his own. It almost felt for a while there he owned the jacket for the man of the match that we present," Rogers said.

"When he got (Jonathan) Trott caught down the leg-side (in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane) I reckon that was the wicket that gave us the belief that we were going to win the Ashes.

"And the spell against South Africa in Centurion. He got three or four early, including the one Graeme Smith fended off (with his glove), it was like 'this shouldn't be happening. We're playing against the best sides in the world'.

"It felt like it was too easy because he was bowling so quick it was incredible."