South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 20, 2012

Starc swings into reckoning for Adelaide


Like Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc admits his rise to a place in Australia's Test squad has been spotted with bouts of self-doubt. Unlike Johnson, Starc has a left-arm fast bowling method that has grown increasingly likely to hold up under the stress of that self-doubt reappearing in the cauldron of the series against South Africa.

Starc is edging closer to a place in the XI for the second Test in Adelaide starting from Thursday, his speed, swing and height augmenting the natural variety provided by his left arm. Ben Hilfenhaus appears the most probable fast bowler to make way, though the younger James Pattinson is slipping ever closer towards the sorts of prescient workload red flags that suggested he would be a casualty at the SCG last summer.

Whoever he replaces, Starc will be doing so as a far more confident and accomplished bowler than the one who strode nervously onto the Test stage at the Gabba against New Zealand a little less than 12 months ago. Despite having played only four Tests, Starc is already spoken of by the coach Mickey Arthur and the national selector John Inverarity as a success, his skills and durability both benefiting from a careful program that has melded development and match-play over the past year.

"Still being in one piece is obviously a great thing," Starc said. "Mickey has said right from the get-go, there's a plan for everyone, he's been quite honest. He's spoken to me a lot about coming in around the team and times when I would go back to state cricket. They have kept me informed and it's been pretty successful over the past 12 months.

"I feel I have improved my game and learnt so much being around the Australian team, then gone away and been left alone a bit as well, to my own devices."

Starc's education has also factored in his personality, which carries less swagger than Pattinson though occasionally given to bouts of aggression. Gabba spectators once discovered this during a domestic limited-overs appearance for New South Wales, in which Starc gestured upon taking a wicket with triumph and no little anger at a handful who had baited the wiry southerner.

In this, Starc shares some ground with Johnson, whose shy and retiring character was sometimes pushed to one side in attempts to play the role of enforcer. This never sat with complete comfort on Johnson's shoulders, and Starc is glad to have the more demonstrative Pattinson to engage in the verbal battle while he concentrates on keeping his arm and action higher than Johnson's has ever been.

"I've had it [white line fever] a few times but I will probably leave it to Patto," Starc said. "I'm not as verbal as Patto is. I am probably more [about] actions rather than words. Jimmy's pretty good at it, so I'll let him keep doing that. I'm probably not going to have a crack at anyone. Hopefully I can do that with the ball."

Through the past two years Starc has built his sense of self-worth, helped by mentors including Wasim Akram and Jason Gillespie to first realise what a talent he had, and then set about making sure it is used for maximum returns. "I'd done a lot of work on that though my time at the academy, I probably didn't have the greatest self-confidence but I worked through that and I'm probably better off for that now," Starc said. "At the academy we have sports psychologists and that sort of thing who we have sessions with every week, so they worked for me."

The recurring sight of cartwheeling stumps after another inswinger has curled through a batsman's defences has no doubt helped Starc's belief, and even if the formats are wildly different, his success for the Sydney Sixers and the national side in Twenty20 will be an aid of sorts should he take the new ball at Adelaide Oval.

Among Starc's skills is a penchant for subverting his left-armer's angle by moving round the wicket with the older ball and gaining enough reverse-swing to bend the ball away from right-hand batsmen, when with the new ball they had been wary of it bending back in. In this he shows the influence of Akram, who was fearsome enough with the new ball from over the wicket but often lethal from round it with the old.

"It is sometimes a bit of a spur-of-the-moment thing, a change of angle. I like to do it a lot more in limited-overs cricket towards the death," Starc said. "It doesn't happen as often in four-day cricket for me. I am sticking to over the wicket and hopefully getting that line across the right hander.

"We had it swinging around in the nets yesterday so hopefully we can bring that out into the game, and hopefully get the ball to reverse a bit where it's more abrasive on the drier track. Hopefully the quicks can make full use of the reverse-swing and the conventional swing. We'll do as much as we can to get that ball off the straight."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • des on November 21, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    Hang on, why do Aus need to change the team after that magnificent home draw against 10 man SA? After reading the Aussie press and fan comments I thought they just had to turn up to crush SA in the rest of the series. Perhaps they just want to give Tony Stark experience of winning by an innings.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    @NotU - as a Queenslander, I'm sick of hearing about NSW bias. I frankly don't care. The fact of the matter is that Australia has definitely been searching for a left arm quick, and we haven't been blessed with many. Mitch Johnson had an extended run at the top but his inability to consistently swing the ball has counted against him. Realistically Starc is the only left arm quick in the country grabbing any attention, at all, for the right reasons. What can Queensland offer? Walter? What we do have is Cutting and Harris (when fit) and both of these men can attribute their non-selection to injury and the selection of people from Victoria and Tasmania...NOT NSW! Cutting and Harris (and McDermott) are in direct competition with Siddle, Pattinson and Hilfenhaus.....NOT STARC!

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    NotU raises a very valid point about NSW, but still Starc will be something good. The only more bias state than NSW is QLD, not through selection into the national team but truly believing their players deserve it more. QLD is known as the sook state, as in they'll whinge their way into the team by resorting to the obvious NSW bias rant. NSW are born selected, VICs either buy their way in or rely on one good state performance to cater for a season of chances. Tasmanians are Western Australians get fair selections on form generally and SA never get picked, especially not for tests but on current form can anyone blame the selectors for that LOL.

  • Mathew on November 20, 2012, 22:41 GMT

    Aussie FFL i got to laugh son, nice post. Starc does seem like a good find, and if he can stay injury free he might well contest in the ashes. As for the drubbing you speak of I agree one of the teams in the ashes are certainly going to get one, we just differ in which team, by we I mean me and everybody else. Still bitter about the rules too, i guess thats because Eng have finally caught up with the world champion rule benders. Lemon anybody?

  • Adrian on November 20, 2012, 22:41 GMT

    This shouldn't be in question. He is behind only Ryan Harris (injured) and James Pattinson in the bowling ranks, far ahead of Siddle and Hilfenhaus.

  • Cameron on November 20, 2012, 15:29 GMT

    Front-Foot_lunge? Almost had me there! Had to do a double take. Nice one & nice try. Quality actually. However, the real FFL would never be so effusive towards anything Australian. I think Starc will be a revelation with more experience. Definitely one to watch, & a lot to like about our pace set up generally. Same can't be said for England currently. Anderson, Broad & Bresnan all struggled to have any impact or bowl with any pace at Ahmedabad. All three making pedestrian Zaheer look express: the three of them were lucky to 130kph tops during the test. While the Indian quicks (especially Umesh) bowled with a lot more zest & vigour. Bring it on Mitchell Starc

  • Sudipta on November 20, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    He must replace hilfenhaus. He will be more effective than hilfy.

  • front on November 20, 2012, 13:50 GMT

    He's green, young and prodigiously talented and yet another bullet in the magazine of Aussie quicks set to terrorise England next year. We may just scrape a draw (even I don't predict it!) in the summer, but that will only set up the drubbing he will give us in the return rubber later in the year. The question will be, does he tour to India next year? As a like for like comparison, astute cricket watchers will keep an eye and England's bowling performance as well as the Aussies as a form marker going into the English summer. Perhaps our only hope to match them is if we can fast-track some more south african quicks into our team. Surprising since we cant find anyone in the pool of from 50million in England & Wales, but also add to that Ireland and also South African pool were pulling players from more and more.

  • David on November 20, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    Starc/Cummins reminds me a little of McGrath's entrance into the Australian team. Back in 1993, there was another NSW bowler called up to the Australian squad just a few months before McGrath. He was a tearaway quick, and the smart money would have been on him making his mark on the game rather than the more pedestrian McGrath. But when you look at his Cricinfo player profile page, Wayne Holdsworth doesn't even have a picture.

    Will Starc (McGrath) and Cummins (Holdsworth) be similarly remembered in the future?

  • Luva on November 20, 2012, 13:10 GMT

    Wasn't one of the recommendations of the Argus report to reward results? So Starc has had a sustained period wicket taking in first class cricket. What's that you say, no he hasn't? He has a mediocre First Class record and a current season of two matches with virtually no new ball impactl, and was out bowled by all three Qld seamers. But lo and behold Starc comes from N.S.W. so obviously he should be picked. It never ends does it? Just hand out the baggy greens in the N.S.W. dressing sheds.

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