The knee-jerk reaction on glancing at Johnson’s batting statistics is to ask why did he never play for England? Purely staying with figures, anyone might presume it must be because he was a rather modest fielder. Wrong. Even in his final summer, after more than 20 years of county cricket, when he was the oldest member of the side, he was still one of the best in the field. In his younger days he might have been overshadowed by Randall, but then, who wasn’t? So fielding definitely was not his weak point.
The other flaw which some apparently talented batsmen, or indeed bowlers, have suffered from is not being too bright upstairs. Johnson certainly doesn’t qualify here. He studies the game deeply and of course is now employed as a coach at Trent Bridge.
He joined the staff at Trent Bridge in 1981 and that summer became the youngest player to represent the county in a major competitive game – a Sunday League fixture. The following summer, now aged 17, he scored prolifically for Nottinghamshire Seconds, so much so that the Manager had no option but to introduce Johnson to first-class cricket.
In 1983 he established himself in the First XI and become the youngest batsman to hit a century for the County – typical of Johnson this initial hundred was not a carefully crafted affair, but one in which he even outshone his county captain, Rice – and Rice was no laggard. In 1984 Broad joined Notts and Johnson was squeezed out of the XI until late on. He decided to show the team what they had missed and finished top of the batting averages!
Critics were beginning to propose Johnson for an England trial. The selectors however were not paying attention. Only in the winter of 1991-92 was Johnson chosen for the young England’A’ side to tour West Indies. A report at the tour’s close commented: “Johnson bats as he talks, some of it sensible, some of it outrageous, a great deal of it entertaining, none of it dull. The full England side should benefit heavily from his decision not to become a professional footballer.”
Somehow that call to full Test colours never materialised. Perhaps he really was too impetuous for the long game, but England surely would have benefited from his expertise in One-day Internationals? His famous innings versus Kent at Trent Bridge in the Sunday League will be recalled by all who were fortunate enough to witness it.
Paul Johnson was born in Newark on 24 April 1965. His father was an enthusiastic club cricketer and Johnson played for his local club, Balderton, at a ridiculously early age, before joining Notts immediately on leaving school.
Johnson served as a coach until the end of the 2013 season.