Daniel Brettig
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Australia news

Starc right to call Warne's bluff

In defending team-mates Nathan Lyon and Ben Hilfenhaus from perceived criticism, Mitchell Starc showed his heart is in the right place

Daniel Brettig

December 11, 2012

Comments: 33 | Text size: A | A

Nathan Lyon celebrates Hashim Amla's wicket, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 4th day, November 25, 2012
Mitchell Starc spoke out to make clear the Australia players' backing for Nathan Lyon © Getty Images

It is one thing to stand up for a team-mate. Quite another to do so when the antagonist happens to be Shane Warne.

Though he remains some way short of ripening as a Test match bowler, there is a lot to like about Mitchell Starc. On the field he is capable of delivering the unplayable ball, as Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis discovered to their discomfort in Perth. Off it, he is also capable of delivering impassioned defences of his team-mates, a quality that will not go unnoticed by the pair of fellow bowlers subject to much scrutiny over the past week. If Starc is not yet capable of bowling as a team man all the time, he has certainly spoken as one.

When Warne drummed up effortless publicity for the Twenty20 Big Bash League by trotting out the line that at 43 he was more than good enough to walk straight back into Australia's Test team, media and public enthusiasm for the ageing legspinner's loose talk was such to make incumbent Nathan Lyon feel a little unwanted. While Lyon and Michael Clarke have formed a strong and very healthy relationship, Australia's captain could not help but fuel the fire by admitting that he had wished and asked for a Warne comeback many times.

As the debate swirled, Starc weighed in with the following words about Warne at a press conference ahead of the Sydney Sixers' opening BBL fixture on Saturday. "He's done his time," Starc said, with a smile but a firm tone. "He's obviously done a lot of great things for Australian cricket, but he's done and dusted now, and Nathan Lyon's the spinner. We're all backing Nathan to do his job and if Shane Warne wants to come out of retirement and give it a crack, good luck to him."

Starc's response to the Warne question was as refreshing for its defence of Lyon's place in as it was for siding with reality against the hot-air hype of the BBL's opening week. That it was subsequently written up and spoken of as disrespectful to Warne was unfair on Starc, who had shown the temerity to assure Lyon that amid the madness there were plenty who felt he was doing just fine, and learning fast, as Australia's No. 1 spinner. The way the Melbourne Renegades batsmen tucked into Warne's bowling on opening night of the BBL did not hurt Lyon's case, either.

Starc has now discarded Sixers pink for the grey-green of Australia's training kit in Hobart as the Test team prepared for Sri Lanka. Chief among the team's concerns ahead of the series is the readiness of Ben Hilfenhaus to be both yeoman and wicket-taker, after he wrestled with technical bad habits against South Africa and found himself out of the team for a WACA Test match that would normally be ideal for his persistent away swing.

The question posed to Starc about Hilfenhaus after training was innocuous enough, merely hinting at the struggles the Tasmanian bowler has gone through in trying to relocate his best method after it was warped somewhat by the conflicting demands of T20 matches in India and South Africa. Nevertheless, Starc's response was pugnacious, even if he might be the bowler to benefit by inclusion should Hilfenhaus be ruled unready to return.

"Hilfy's a class bowler, and I'm sure he'll come out and go well again," Starc said. "If Hilfy doesn't come out and take five-for, someone's on his back, so he's going to bowl well. You can't just pick on one performance after one match, he's a class bowler, he's getting himself right to go and I'm sure he'll prepare well for this Test. If he gets chosen he'll do a great job again."

In this case, Starc's defence was more passionate than measured, as it is true that Hilfenhaus had two matches against South Africa to prove himself, before he was sidelined for reasons of injury, fatigue or form, depending on who you ask. But it will no doubt be a tonic for Hilfenhaus that Starc is in his corner not only with ball in hand but microphone at chin.

As Australia seek to build a formidable team culture without the bulwark provided for so long by Ricky Ponting, Starc's fire will be valued so long as it continues to be directed with the sort of focus he demonstrated in defence of Lyon and Hilfenhaus. Starc can still be prone to costly lapses with the ball, as shown on day two of the Perth Test. But he has demonstrated that his heart is where it should be. In the increasingly mercenary T20 age, that is not a quality to be taken for granted.

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

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Posted by phermon on (December 12, 2012, 22:36 GMT)

Mikey76, your absolutely probably comment sounded like a press conference with Michael Slater - thoroughly enjoyed! But Warney coming [back] in England is too dangerous now that texts have been superceded by twits. No-one will know who he's propositioning for a doosra under the doona.

Posted by wrenx on (December 12, 2012, 18:56 GMT)

Starc's clearly the real deal - not sue why Australia place Cummins and Pattinson ahead of him. He should have a place ahead of of Johnson too, and pair up with Siddle

Posted by Beertjie on (December 12, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

@mikey76 on (December 12 2012, 05:12 AM GMT): Looking fwd to peitersen smashing Lyon's dibbly dobbly's into next week. What are the odds that as soon as KP walks to the crease Pup takes the ball himself? Seriously though, there's another left-armer Dutchy who I hope they take along to England if he's recovered from his big injury by then. And Lyon is no pie chucker despite what the Pom trollers think.

Posted by anton1234 on (December 12, 2012, 15:55 GMT)

Michael Clarke is too soft to be captain. I completely agree with Starc's defense of Lyon. Warne should not even be in the T20 team, let alone test side. He went for 40 plus runs off his 2 overs the other day. Personally, if I were a manager of a T20 Big Bash League team, I wouldn't have anything to do with any player that has retired from the game in all other forms but is still trying to earn easy money playing the T20 game.

Hayden has done the right thing retiring last yea at 38 because he felt he would taking the place of an up and coming player. Warne has no shame and is a complete disgrace.

Posted by gsingh7 on (December 12, 2012, 14:04 GMT)

lyon gonna get a beatdown in india, he is club level bowler, even unfit bhajji is better than him, warne at his best game was thrashed by indians , i feel sorry for wat indian batsmen wud do to him in few weeks time

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

Warne is the boss The first ever player to coach his team While playing at the same time

Posted by disco_bob on (December 12, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

Good solid comments from Starc staring them down. but they had to slip in the "Ponting bullwark" didn't they, he's another one who's done and dusted let's give it a rest. His bull hadn't been doing any warking for a few years.

Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (December 12, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

@mikey76. I'm confused how someone can absolutely do anything probably? It would be most appreciated if you could elaborate.

Posted by SamRoy on (December 12, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

Like @landl47 I too rate Starc vey highly. I rate Pattinson very highly as well. Both can become world class. Though I don't think anyone comes close to Mohammed Amir as a bowler. I think Amir is the bowler of this generation and it is a real pity to world cricket that we are losing out on a talent like him. I don't think Hilfenhaus will ever be better than good and nor will Siddle be better than good (though he tries very very hard, a likeable trait in a guy). Ryan Harris is also very good but he is 33 and has played 12 tests in 3 years for Australia. So doesn't look like he is going to play all that much.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

A team is a team focussed to go for a win and not be about stars and personalities. Not important who is in it and who is out serving drinks. Win is what counts. India is having a problem now with star studded lineup thats good for nothing. Real madrid faced that a few years ago.

Posted by mikey76 on (December 12, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

Starc will absolutely tear a hamstring probably! Looking fwd to peitersen smashing Lyon's dibbly dobbly's into next week. Will also be funny watching poor old Hughes trudging back to the pavilion c. Swann b. Anderson for the umpteenth time. Warney might have to make a comeback in England if Liz gives him permission!

Posted by landl47 on (December 12, 2012, 5:11 GMT)

I've said many times in Cricinfo forums that I really rate Starc. He's not only a talented bowler, but as this article shows, he has his head screwed on the right way. I believe he's going to be a great test bowler and, incidentally, a great partner for Nathan Lyon by creating rough outside the right-hander's off stump for Lyon to exploit.

Posted by usernames on (December 12, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

Jonesy is clearly the best commentator in the history of Cricinfo.

Posted by HARCOURT_CUMBERBACH on (December 12, 2012, 2:33 GMT)

Starc is a good'n, we should pick him and stick with him.

Posted by Meety on (December 12, 2012, 0:54 GMT)

@jonesy2 on (December 11 2012, 14:47 PM GMT) - I thought Mitchell Marsh was the best limited overs bowler in the world???

== == == Starc should play this Test. If we play all 4 seamers (something Pup would be loathe to do in dropping Lyon), we can have 2 lefties again, if we have 3 seamers + Watto & Lyon - I'd go Starc over MJ. I think it is time that Starc bats @ #8 ahead of Siddle too.

Posted by bobagorof on (December 12, 2012, 0:32 GMT)

jonesy2: that's hardly a ringing endorsement for left armers. Starc still has plenty of work to do to build some consistency. There's a whole lot to like about him on his good days, and I expect him to be more successful than Mitchell Johnson (though in the last few years that wouldn't be hard), but he's still young and still learning.

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (December 12, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

Good bowler Starc. Still not consistent enough to be a first-pick test bowler but that will come. As the article says, when he gets it right he is unplayable.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2012, 23:56 GMT)

Yay! Jonesy2 is back! You've been quiet lately. Been ill have you?

Posted by jmcilhinney on (December 11, 2012, 23:40 GMT)

Some people get blinded by celebrity. If Starc had disparaged Warne's contribution to Australian cricket then that would have been disrespectful, but he didn't so it wasn't. Just because Warne was a good player is not reason for his being immune to criticism. He wasn't thinking about respecting Lyon when he made his original comments.

Posted by RandyOZ on (December 11, 2012, 23:26 GMT)

Starc will absolutely tear India and England, two world minnows, apart next year. Bell would do well to retire now because he's been shown up by Warne before, and Starc is coming to deliver some serious chin music.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (December 11, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

Starc would make the World Injury Prone XI

Posted by sreej on (December 11, 2012, 23:02 GMT)

I can't believe you wrote an entire article based on a few quotes! I have to admit that it's well written, but I would really like to know whether your editor forced you to produce some copy for the day.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2012, 22:09 GMT)

@jonesy2 - Your comments at espncricinfo brighten up my day, passionate yet hilarious, I really dont know whether to take you seriously or not :P

In regards to the Warne/Lyon debacle, lyon will continue to improve and I think he has the making of a decent spinner he just needs game time and the full support of the ACB and the Australian public.

Posted by wellrounded87 on (December 11, 2012, 20:59 GMT)

I have to say i though Hilfenhaus bowled decently well. Not his best but it's not like he was leaking runs, he kept it tight and was able to build good pressure he just wasn't getting the ball moving like he did against Inda. His pace was a little off as well but i think he can get back into a good groove.

That being said i still want to see a bowling attack with Siddle, Harris, Cummins, Pattinson all firing and fit to play

Posted by   on (December 11, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

starc is obviously a very good prospect for the future of Australian bowling attack & should go places. West Indies 2 has potentially equally good or even better fastmen lefties in cotterell & johnson but for some reason we refuse to give him a chance while keeping bowlers with + averages of 50 & strike rate over 100 for the year 2012

Posted by wibblewibble on (December 11, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

How does jonesy2 manage to post on here from an alternate reality? Enquiring minds want to know!

Posted by InsideHedge on (December 11, 2012, 16:30 GMT)

I'm surprised he hasn't broken down yet. Doesn't he miss chatting to his mates on the physio table?

Posted by   on (December 11, 2012, 15:43 GMT)

Best limited overs bowler in the world? Oh man I should remember not to read these comments.

Posted by DylanBrah on (December 11, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

Agree with jonesy. Super talented strike bowler.

Posted by hris on (December 11, 2012, 15:01 GMT)

spot on Starc. I love Waney but this kind of rubbish talk only demoralizes the current crop. He would be better off helping Lyon, better yet, help some young kids learn the art of spin bowling.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2012, 14:57 GMT)

Bravo to Mitch Starc for having the balls to say what needed to be said. For a young bowler to come out and back his team-mate no questions asked against one of the greatest players ever, takes guts and commitment to his team and I for one applaud him for doing so. Shane Warne was without a doubt one of the greatest players ever to wear the baggy green, but one must question his motives for making inflammatory statements. His career didn't start as successfully as Nathan Lyon's and in no means does he have the right to try and push CA into abandoning a relatively proven and certainly promising young player for the sake of a publicity stunt. I hope for CA's sake, they see this as what it is and continue to back Nathan Lyon as he certainly has the backing of the rest of Australia. Nice to see such a young team instilled with loyalty, integrity and courage to stand up to the legends of the game and back each other.

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 11, 2012, 14:47 GMT)

starc is about as ripe as they get. clearly the best left armer in the world and best limited overs bowler in the world

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 11, 2012, 14:45 GMT)

i dont know whats more of a joke, warne in the media talking rubbish, or whoever wrote this.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.

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