Adelaide, Dec 8: The tragic death of Phillip Hughes has cast a pall of gloom but Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson today said he will not tone down the aggression in his bowling when the home team faces India in the first cricket Test starting here tomorrow.
The series had been delayed owing to Hughes' death after being hit on the head by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield game two weeks ago.
"We've got to play the way that we've been playing and that's been aggressive. That's the way I've always played the game and I know how the boys will be, going out there and playing the best cricket they can. If that's bowling the short ball like we have been, then that's how we'll do it," said Johnson ahead of the first Test.
Not going to change aggressive bowling: Johnson
"We'll assess the conditions obviously, but we're not going to change a thing. As a bowling unit, the last probably 18 months for me personally I've been bowling very aggressive and I'm not going to change that," he added.
When asked pertinently, what his reaction would be if he hit a batsman on the head, Johnson replied, "I'm not sure. It might be a different reaction this time. I haven't hit anyone yet so I don't know how I'm going to feel."
Cricket Australia and South Australia Cricket Association have planned rich tributes to their late cricketer. Hughes has been declared as the 13th man for the Australian team with all the playing members wearing his cap number 408 on their Test jerseys in this first match of the series.
"It's really special," said Johnson about the tribute. "His family, I think, that would make them very proud. I'm very proud to be able to wear that number through this Test. We've named him as the 13th man as well. It's all very special." (Kohli to captain India in Adelaide)
'Going to be an emotional morning'
It has been a stressful time for the Australian players to return to cricket. Their rehabilitation began on Friday with a team-building exercise and since then they have had training sessions leading to this first Test. However, things will still be emotional tomorrow morning at the Adelaide Oval, Hughes' adopted home ground.
"It's going to be an emotional morning and probably looking at it from our first little part of the game, for me going out there and bowling the first spell might be the most difficult. Then we might just get into the game a bit more but I think mentally, we've had a few training sessions and the vibe's good," said Johnson.
"Everyone's really keen to get out there and play some cricket now. That's our goal and I guess we're going to wait and see how we all feel because we're all going to feel a little bit different. But I'm really looking forward to going out there. It's a good place to play. I know that as a bowling unit, we're sticking together and we're all ready to go," Johnson added.
All-rounder Shane Watson had mentioned yesterday that when he first batted in the nets after the incident, it took him some time to get back to normally facing the cricket ball. When asked if this could have a bearing on Australia's decision after winning the toss on a flat pitch, the pacer replied in negative.
'If we win toss, will bat first'
"If we win the toss I think we're going to bat. It's a really good wicket so I don't think that's going to change the way we think. Shane did say that during the week the batsmen found it a bit harder.
"But I think we all found it pretty hard even as bowlers to go in there and bowl a short ball. I am glad we've been able to get out there and be able to bowl short ones and get in the nets and face a few."
Perhaps the biggest boost for the Australian team at this hour is that skipper Michael Clarke has fought his hamstring problems and will be ready to play this first Test. He has been a national hero in the last two weeks, marshalling the cricketing fraternity in Australia in its most tragic time.
'Clarke is a strong leader'
"It has been an emotional roller-coaster and how strong he has been as a person to stand up and do what he's done. I've definitely seen a different side to him. It's a huge boost to have him back in and playing for us.
"I think with his captaincy, he has shown how strong he's been over the last couple of weeks with the tragedy that we've had. We need him out there in this tough series," said the tearaway bowler.
"He's a strong leader. He has been an aggressive leader. He has just grown as a captain and as a person. So to have him in the batting order as well, the amount of runs that he's scored, he's really keen to get out there and score some more for Australia. He just has something about him when he's out there as captain.
"Everyone listens. You're sort of watching him and he just goes about the job really well. We just want him to score runs and be that aggressive captain," Johnson signed off.