Michael Clarke is confident Mitchell Johnson will trouble batsmen during Ashes 2015    Getty Images
Michael Clarke is confident Mitchell Johnson will trouble batsmen during Ashes 2015 Getty Images

Cardiff: Australia captain Michael Clarke believes all the talk of whether fast bowler Mitchell Johnson can succeed in British conditions has “put fire into his belly”. The left-arm paceman took 37 wickets at under 14 apiece as Australia crushed England 5-0 in the 2013/14 Ashes ‘Down Under’. Michael Clarke: Australia will play hard but fair in The Ashes 2015

But the likes of England captain Alastair Cook have questioned whether Johnson can replicate that form in the upcoming Ashes series, which gets underway with the first Test in Cardiff starting on Wednesday. Clarke, however, insisted Tuesday that his spearhead was in prime form.

“Mitchell Johnson is as ready as I’ve seen him,” Clarke told a news conference at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens ground. “He’s bowling as fast as I’ve ever seen him bowl in the nets and he’s swinging it too. It’s not fun to face,” he added. ALSO READ: Ashes 2015 England vs Australia, 1st Test at Cardiff, Preview

“He’s fit, healthy and excited about what lies ahead. There’s been things said about whether he can perform in these conditions and that’s put fire into his belly.” Cook, who himself has come nowhere near matching his tally of 766 Test runs at 127.66 during England’s victorious 2010/11 Ashes tour — indeed he averages under 28 in all other series against Australia — suggested Johnson would find it hard to replicate his past success.

“Mitchell had the series of a lifetime (in 2013/14), pretty similar to what happened in 2010/11 with my form,” Cook said. “You get on a bit of a roll and you can’t do no wrong. Credit when it’s due, he bowled very well and bowled quickly. “Whether he can repeat that, that’s the challenge and we’ve got to make sure we cope with it better if he does.”

Cook, taking up a theme voiced by England paceman Stuart Broad, also suggested conditions in Britain would work in England’s favour when it came to facing Johnson. “Obviously, the pace and bounce in these wickets aren’t as much (as Australia),” he said. ALSO READ: England must cope with Mitchell Johnson better in Ashes 2015, says Alastair Cook

Much has been made in the build-up regarding Cook’s conservative captaincy style, which has been contrasted with the more aggressive approach of Clarke. Trevor Bayliss, England’s new Australian coach, has said they must “fight fire with fire” if they are to regain the Ashes.

But Cook said Tuesday that leadership was often about the players at your disposal. He added that the current make-up of the side, featuring the likes of attacking batsman Joe Root, all-rounder Ben Stokes, wicket-keeper/batsman Jos Buttler and fast bowler Mark Wood, was very different to the one that was at the “end of its life cycle” in 2013/14.

“There is a lot written about my captaincy and it is important I sometimes get on the front foot,” said Cook. “If you look back at previous teams, they were more methodical. Maybe there’s more opportunity to be on the front foot with the players we’ve got now.”