Starc: I have a pretty good relationship with Langer
First Test of the Australian summer kicks off in ousted coach's backyard, creating potential for tension
As the build-up for Australia's opening Test of the summer threatens to be mired in bloodletting, Mitchell Starc aptly fronted the media just metres from 'Langer's Loft' - once an exclusive bar for members but now an eyesore amid a redevelopment at the WACA.
The symbolism was striking with Australia arriving in Perth ahead of the first Test against West Indies on November 30 amid controversy after former coach Justin Langer's candid interview over his ugly exit earlier in the year.
Langer on the Back Chat podcast attacked anonymous "cowards" who leaked against him and believed some players were not transparent over their feedback.
It led to a rebuke from Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley although Langer has stated since that the players are "like my younger brothers".
There was intrigue over how Starc would handle the expected probing over the saga in the first official press conference ahead of the Optus Stadium Test. And in what might be a sign of a detente, he dead-batted the controversy, claiming he hadn't listened to the interview.
"I have a pretty good relationship with Langer," Starc told reporters on Saturday. "We exchanged text messages post the [T20] World Cup. I'm pretty comfortable with my relationship with JL."
Starc said the team did not specifically address the issue ahead of their three-hour training session at the WACA's nets and on the ground's grassy main wicket.
"Was mentioned that there could be some noise around it obviously being in the west and with JL having a commentary spot," he said. We're comfortable...spend a lot of time together as a three format group. It's all preparation for this Test match. Not too much is going to distract us. I'm sure we'll see [Langer] at the ground and throughout the summer."
The West Australian fans are likely to back their favourite son in the first Test match in Perth since December 2019 due to the state's strict Covid-19 measures.
"Always had great crowds in Perth," Starc said. "There's been a lot of talk about not having Test cricket over here for a long time. Hopefully the public can support that. Show us what Test cricket means to them."
While the left-arm quick wasn't focusing on his pursuit of 300 Test wickets, Starc was excited about the likelihood of a spicy drop-in pitch at Optus Stadium, which tries to replicate the WACA's famed pace and bounce.
Starc has starred in the two Tests at the 60-000-seat ground with 14 wickets against India and New Zealand at a venue he rates as the second-best in the country behind Adelaide Oval, which will host the second Test against West Indies in a day-night contest.
"[Adelaide and Perth are] good contests between bat and ball," said Starc, who has taken 287 Test wickets. "[In Perth] you're rewarded for good shots and likewise rewarded for good bowling.
"The India Test [in 2018] was a very good wicket for three days and as the Test wore on the cracks got bigger...played a lot of tricks in the fourth innings. A very good bat versus ball wicket that presented challenges for both."
Given West Indies' well-chronicled struggles in Australia, having not won a Test since February 1997 at the WACA, there has been some belief that the home team can ease into the Test summer ahead of a mouth-watering three-match series against South Africa.
Starc, however, believed West Indies should not be underestimated, pointing to their stunning home Test triumph over England in March.
"Definitely not taking any teams lightly. We know what the West Indies can serve up at their best," he said as Australia returns to Test cricket since their tour of Sri Lanka in June and July. "It's a good chance to kick-start our summer of Test cricket and hopefully some exciting cricket will be played."
Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth