Starc eager to keep learning
Mitchell Starc cannot help but be compared to Mitchell Johnson. It's not just the name. It's the left-arm variety that he adds to the attack. Occasionally during his first two Tests against New Zealand, it seemed that Starc might have inherited one of Johnson's flaws - a faulty radar. But in his third Test, he has found his line, and he's done it at one of Johnson's favourite venues.
As Starc swung the ball in to the right-handers in the second innings at the WACA, it was hard to tell if it was the Fremantle Doctor blowing in across his left shoulder or his wrist position that was making it work. Certainly the breeze had helped Johnson achieve the same effect at this ground in summers past. But the way Starc hooped the ball in the Big Bash League last week in Sydney, it seems it is a skill that he is starting to master.
The delivery that trapped Sachin Tendulkar lbw on the second afternoon in Perth was a beauty. It curved in and had the world's best batsman in all sorts of trouble, playing down the wrong line, and despite Tendulkar's clear annoyance at Aleem Dar's decision, it deserved to be given out. After the day's play, Starc spoke of how he had picked the brains of Wasim Akram - who is in Australia commentating on this series - to help him with his swing.
"I had the chance to catch up with him for half an hour in Sydney," Starc said. "The main thing I had the chance to talk to him about was swinging the ball consistently and a bit of wrist position. It was only a brief chat and hopefully I can catch up with him some time soon, because he was a genius at what he did. It's not going to harm me to chat to him about those things.
"I've been working on my wrist position for a while now, so it's starting to pay off. That consistency to swing the ball is coming in now as well."
Starc was mobbed by his team-mates when Dar's finger went up, the wicket of Tendulkar a major blow to India's hopes of rescuing the Test. He had already picked up the wicket of Gautam Gambhir with a well-directed short ball that was gloved to gully in his first over, but the Tendulkar strike was clearly a special moment for Starc.
"It was an amazing feeling," he said. "Any time you get a Test wicket is pretty special but to get the Little Master is a great feeling. More importantly they're four wickets down in the second innings and [we'll be] pushing to close that out tomorrow hopefully.
"We feel we've got enough to hopefully close them out without having to bat again but we're going to have to bowl pretty well tomorrow. The wicket is a bit flatter with the grass on there, but the cracks are starting to open up a little bit. We're going to have to bowl well but I think we've got enough to get there."
India finished the day with six wickets in hand, but they needed another 121 runs to make Australia bat again. On a pitch that has some cracks beginning to emerge, that loomed as an uphill battle for a side already low on confidence. Barring an Indian miracle, the teams will head to Adelaide next week for the fourth Test with the series decided.
Starc is aware that, whatever happens over the rest of the Perth Test, he is the man most likely to make way for the return of the offspinner Nathan Lyon at the Adelaide Oval. But at 21, Starc knows that he is still on a learning curve, and for the time being he is just enjoying every opportunity he gets to be part of a winning Australia side.
"I'd be very, very surprised if they play four quicks in Adelaide," he said. "Out of the four of us here, I'd probably be the one to go ... But I'm happy to take that if Australia get a win up. I've got to keep working at my game. There's a lot to do for me. I'm still learning. I'm just cherishing every game I get for Australia.
"It's a great environment in the change-room. They make you feel right at home. When you first come into the team and Ricky Ponting comes in and he's already making jokes with you, it's quite easy to be a part of [the unit]. It's a great feeling among the group this summer."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo