Test greats Kim Hughes and Shane Warne believe Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson's Ashes tour in England is being torn apart by a public split with his mother, reports said on Thursday.
Johnson's spectacular loss of form -- he has taken eight wickets for 331 runs in the opening two Tests -- has been largely blamed for the Australian team's losing start to the five-Test series.
Johnson, 27, arrived in England as Australia's premier pace spearhead but former Test skipper Hughes said his confidence has hit 'rock-bottom' since his spat with his mother.
Vikki Harber, 45, made headlines earlier this month when she said her son had been stolen from her by his karate champ fiancee, Jessica Bratich.
Harber told the Herald Sun newspaper her once close relationship with her son had deteriorated since he started going out with Bratich.
While pundits say there are some technical issues involved in Johnson's loss of bowling form, Hughes believes the young quick has been deeply affected by his mother's comments.
"I found it incredibly surprising that his mum said what she did -- Mitchell Johnson is a pretty sensitive young man and now it looks like he is totally devoid of self-confidence," Hughes told the Daily Telegraph.
"That really added some extra pressure and he is a young man who has got other things on his mind. When you lose confidence in yourself, all of a sudden there are technical things that you lose as well.
"This has all come on top of the existing pressure of Johnson having to be the strike bowler who was expected to lead the attack in England."
Warne, who was able to successfully put aside his off-field strife during his stellar playing career, said Johnson should put his personal problems behind him.
"He's had some pretty big distractions and I'm sure it's affected him a fair bit, but you have to deal with it before a Test match and you simply cannot be consumed by it during a Test," Warne told The Australian.
Harber has hit back at her critics and asked the Australian media to deliver her boy a message.
"If you could just let Mitch know I love him," she told The Daily Telegraph. "That I'm so proud of him. Everyone in the family is.
"To see him struggling over there, it really upsets me. I just hope that all the other stuff that's been going on, he might be able to just forget about it and concentrate on playing his cricket."
One cricket pundit said the Australian team cannot afford to carry an out-of-form Johnson into the third Edgbaston Test, starting on July 30.
"Johnson has a great career ahead of him but with Australia going one down (in the series) there can be no half measures -- he has to be fixed, in which case he will be one of the first players dropped," The Daily Telegraph's Robert Craddock said.
"But he cannot be carried. Not in his current form. Not when you have only four frontline bowlers and the other three are rookies."