Mitchell Johnson walks in to the Kim Hughes room at the Waca offering an ice-cold bottle of mineral water, an act of kindness on a blisteringly hot Perth day at odds with his dealings with England batsmen this winter. Johnson is in a benevolent mood after this week winning Australian cricket's highest honour, the Allan Border medal, for his 37 wickets in the Ashes series. He won the player of the year award despite playing in only six Test matches in 2013 and during the English summer was deemed only good enough to be picked for the Australian A team.
Now he is on the A-list for very different reasons, with a career relaunched by a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, and he is happy to explain how it all happened. It started with Jonathan Trott. He bowled 33 balls at Trott in three one-dayers in England last summer and two innings of the first Test at the Gabba. He is acutely aware of the sensitivity around his stress-related illness, and none of us know how much Johnson influenced his decision to go home, but in just 33 balls he destroyed the technique of a batsman who averaged nearly 50 against Australia.
"I remember the ball I bowled to him in England [in a one-dayer] at Edgbaston. It got him in the grille," says Johnson. "I remember looking into his eyes and the way he looked at me I knew I had him. Then I bowled the ball that hit him on the gloves. He got himself in a bad position to play it. He said something like 'Well bowled', but I knew then we were going to make it really difficult for him.
"We wanted to go after him in Australia having seeing him jump around in the one-day series and what really stood out in my mind was hearing he'd been practising playing the short ball since then. It was important we went at him hard in the first Test and that is what we did. We knew he was England's rock. Seeing him going home was a huge thing. It is a sensitive issue but it was a big plus for us to see one of their best players go. It hit the whole team and gave us a lot of confidence knowing they had lost one of their main guys." The next target on the Johnson hit list was Alastair Cook.
"We have always tried to put pressure on the opposition captain. If you can get him you can get the team," he said. "You could see there was a lot of pressure on him. You could feel it and see it in his face. He looked like he was not there and really heavy and droopy. I've been asked many times: 'Do you feel sorry for Cook and the English team?' I have said no. It is what happens in sport. I've gone through it. They did not feel sorry for me when I struggled. It's just the way it is. You hope for his sake he can get back into some form but we've just been constantly trying to drive into the English with bat, ball and our mouths."
The sledging between the sides only just stayed on the right side of acceptable and Johnson believes it is about picking your moments and batsmen. "Kevin Pietersen enjoys the challenge of someone going at him," he said. "That is why in the past we have let him go but sometimes it is hard to contain yourself." Pietersen realised very early on that his battle with Johnson would shape the series.
"I was bowling short at him at the Gabba and he hit a single and said: 'It is either going to be me or you.' I didn't say anything to him. I wanted to keep quiet to him the whole series because I know it gets him going. "In the past I have let my emotions get in the way of the skill. An example of where I have improved a lot is when KP pulled away [as I was about to bowl] in Melbourne. I lost it completely at the time. When I got to the top of my mark I knew I had to relax myself and play the game and not the person. That I have really learnt over time and improved on. KP is one of those guys who loves a contest, a gun batsman. He is hard to get out so it is a big challenge coming up against him. He has that ego and confidence which says 'I am going to beat you', and it comes out. That used to annoy me." Riling Johnson was not a good idea for England but it happened in Adelaide as Matt Prior launched a second-innings counter-attack in vain.
"Prior was starting to hit them well and Broad had a dig at me which was quite funny. It was towards the end of the day Prior got away a few sixes and fours so Broad started lipping up a bit. I said: 'Well, you're not facing this so you can lip can't you? Your poor mate at the other end is copping it.' He was just trying to take me off my game because in the past when that has happened I have lost my way a bit. But I have learnt to stay focused."
A nightly word from Jessica, his wife, helped. "She is from a competitive sport background in karate and after any days when I was a bit flat she would keep telling me to bowl short at the English. She has an aggressive nature. I've seen her compete so I know her aggressive train of thought. She knew what was working for us and used it to keep me positive." There have been many moments when staying positive was a major problem for such a sensitive man. He does not know the full details of Trott's condition but can empathise with a fellow professional enduring troubled times.
"It is pretty sad to see someone go home with whatever issues he has. It comes with the sport. It is difficult being away from home. I know when I was over in England in 2009 copping it day in, day out, you really go through low points and I definitely wanted to go home on a couple of occasions."
That tour was a disaster for Johnson and it set him on a downward spiral as the young cricketer from Townsville in northern Queensland struggled to adapt to the scrutiny of Ashes cricket. "I think about where it all started and it was at the first press conference we did in 2009 at Hove. We had a whole line of media to talk to and [I remember] being blown away by it. I did not know what to expect from an Ashes series and all the media interest that came with it. When I saw that I was overwhelmed and it kicked off. In the first Test personal things came out in the press in Australia which hurt me. I tried to let it all go but found it really hard to handle stuff going on with my family. It was on my mind the whole series. Then I felt like I was the one who was targeted by the Barmy Army and the crowds throughout that series. "I'd been having a good year, I'd won the Garry Sobers Award that year for the best performer in world cricket, but I felt the pressure weigh on me so heavily. It was good for me to go through all that because now I know what to expect when I go to England or even play in Australia against England.
"When things are negative I know how to turn it around now. I'm quite confident and have the self-belief. The maturity I have found has been a big part of where I am now. You have to have those tough times to learn." He even found a coping mechanism for handling the Barmy Army chant which ridicules his bowling and hurt him so much as England won here in 2010-11. He shuts it out by singing a song to himself which reminds him of his young daughter.
"The Barmy Army song is catchy, I'd listen to it and it would go around and around in my head. It definitely affected me. I did not like it but I have moved on from it. I was a bit nervous going over for the one-day series last year. I knew I was in a good place but I knew I was going to cop that song, the one about bowling s----. I found a way to get it out of my head. I would sing another song. Glenn McGrath always had a song. He would walk back to his mark clearing his mind which would allow him to know what he wanted to bowl. I did it throughout the whole Ashes series. It was something that went missing. I totally forgot about it."
In truth he did not need his own song. Johnson had silenced the Barmy Army with his bowling, something far more potent.