Mitch and Mitch, which is which?
Mitchell Johnson's action is not easily repeatable. Wrong. Just come to the Australia nets on their tour of India, and look at the other Mitchell bowl. Starc, the 20-year-old quick from New South Wales, is almost a Johnson clone.
He is tall, seven centimetres more than Johnson, has shortish, black hair, bowls left-arm quick. And then there is the load-up that gives it away. His left arm goes low, he stops for a split second before the crease, and you see that the original Mitchell is actually bowling in the other net. Rub your eyes. Then you look closely, and you can make out the differences. Starc is more high-arm, and his action is slightly more repeatable.
Johnson, who met Starc for the first time on this tour, acknowledges the similarities. "The action looks similar," Johnson says. "He is a lot taller in the action. He has got a bit of sling. He has got pace - low 140s to mid 140s."
Johnson has more flattering things to say. "I have seen him on TV once or twice. He has got it all - the height, the pace, the bounce, the swing. The raw material is there, he just needs to fine-tune things. He has a bit of a rawness about him, but you want to leave that in. It will be a good tour for him, and he will be looking forward to learn as much as he can from myself and Doug [Bollinger], us being left-armers." Starc's first impression wasn't too bad. In the nets, albeit on greenish and damp pitches, he troubled every batsman.
The beauty of it all, though, is that Starc never consciously modelled his action on anyone. Five years ago, in fact, he was a wicketkeeper. "[Maybe] Troy Cooley [the bowling coach] is the common factor. He has worked with both of us," Starc says. "Don't think I modelled my action exactly on him. I didn't try and copy anyone in particular. Both left-arm. But he is not the worst guy to be compared to. He is a world-class bowler."
Starc can point out differences, though. "We are both reasonably tall," he says. "Mitch bowls quicker than me. I am taller than him. I concentrate more on my bounce, compared to him. People draw comparisons to our load-ups."
Starc says people told him of the similarities when he made his first-class debut in March 2009. "I wasn't too fazed by it," he says. "I am still trying to stay natural and [do] what works for me. I am not trying to be Mitchell Johnson, I am trying to be Mitchell Starc. I don't think I can set out to bowl like Mitch. I try to stay natural and athletic."
Given Bollinger is playing the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa for the Chennai Super Kings, there is every chance Starc might get to bowl in the three-day game against Board President's XI in Chandigarh, starting Saturday. There could be a Mitch at each end, bowling like the other. It promises to be a sight.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo