Mitchell Johnson, the world cricketer of the year, may yesterday have become the first sportsman to miss a tournament because of a tattoo. On the other hand he may not, but the cause of the elbow infection which will force Johnson to miss Australia's one-day series against England was its most intriguing aspect.
Johnson first complained of the pain in the joint during the World Twenty20 and it flared up again when he returned home afterwards. Johnson had a tattoo engraved on his right arm after the Australian season and that has been one widely-touted cause of the infection, although the boxing drills he uses as part of his training have also been mentioned.
Although Johnson's left-arm fast bowling is notoriously inconsistent he has become an integral part of all Australia's teams. He still hopes to join the team in time for their neutral matches in England against Pakistan, including two Tests and three one-dayers.
"I hope it's not long-term," Johnson said. "I've seen some specialists and got their opinions. Hopefully they've given me the right stuff to heal it up. Hopefully I'll be back out there soon."
If it proves to be the tattoo wot done it, the fashion among sportsmen for having their skin decorated may come to an end. Johnson's place in the Australian squad, which arrives in Ireland on Saturday, will be taken by the 19-year-old fast bowler, Josh Hazlewood.
He is another example of an outback boy – he comes from a New South Wales town of 300 inhabitants – whose proximity to the outdoor life goes cheek by jowl with an ability to bowl fast. Hazlewood was Australia's star player in the Under-19 World Cup win in January, taking four wickets in both the semi-final and final. If he makes the starting line-up during the tour of England he will be Australia's youngest one-day player.Reuse content