Starc can bowl a white ball but can he bowl in whites?

Date: March 27, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Mitchell StarcMany people believed that Mitchell Starc would be right up there when it came to the most successful bowler at this World Cup.

In my pre-tournament prognostications I said he would top the wicket tally … mind you I also chose Kane Williamson as the leading run-scorer!

Heading into today’s semi-final against India at the SCG, Starc (18) sits second behind New Zealand left-arm quick Trent Boult (21) as the most prolific wicket-taker.

Given Starc’s consistency throughout the tournament had it not been for the washout at the Gabba against Bangladesh he would likely be a lot closer to Boult.

By any measure Starc has had an outstanding World Cup.

He enters the semi-final having taken his 18 wickets at the stunning average of 9.8 – by comparison Boult has averaged 15.8.

In fact, of all the bowlers to have taken six or more wickets in the tournament India’s Mohammad Shami has the nearest average to Starc at 13.3.

The Australian left-armer has struck once every 15.6 deliveries and has an equally impressive economy rate of 3.7 runs per over.

That mark puts him at the top of the list in that category as well with the next best, former Black Cap skipper Daniel Vettori, with an economy rate of 4.0.

Starc’s best performance came in the nail-biter at Eden Park where he almost got Australia – defending a paltry 151 – over the line with a fiery 6-28.

In that match he repeatedly breached the batsmen’s defences and thundered into the stumps.

Some of his deliveries could have been quite easily filed in the unplayable category.

Starc has shown that when he has everything in order he can be a devastating fast bowler.

In every match of this World Cup he has delivered balls in the low 150kmh range with his quickest and average pace in each game higher than Mitchell Johnson and Pat Cummins.

So, having said all that, what does the future hold for Starc?

His ODI place is well established and he will be a first-choice selection for quite some time as one of the most destructive white-ball bowlers in the game.

In his 39 one-dayers heading into today’s semi he has captured 79 wickets at 18.6 with a strike rate of 23 and an economy rate of 4.8.

During the summer, albeit in the Big Bash, national selector Mark Waugh nominated Starc as having bowled the over of the tournament when representing the Sydney Sixers he sent down a succession of 150km-plus deliveries to clean bowl two Perth Scorchers’ batsmen.

While his white-ball future is assured it is his Test career where the main questions lay.

With the white leather in hand he has been a prodigious swinger of the ball.

He has moved it at times at Test level although not always consistently however with the exception of Dale Steyn there seem to be few Test bowlers who can summon consistent swing at will.

Starc has shown that he can be effective with the older ball and reverse swing.

There is no doubt that his pace has picked up throughout the season which shows an increasing mastery of his technique.

Shane Warne verbalised what many had felt during the Gabba Test against India in December when he questioned Starc’s on-field personality and nature.

He chose the word ‘soft’ and in doing so and while Starc riled at the accusation – and Warne could have perhaps worded his theory differently – what he was alluding to was not Starc’s physical work ethic but more his seemingly undemonstrative way of going about his business.

While most fast bowlers are full of bluff and bluster with stares and glares at the batsman Starc was more of a bowl it, turn around and trudge back to your mark man.

There was no doubting that Warne’s words spurred on Starc whose body language was different through the back-half of the summer.

Having been omitted from the middle two Tests against India he returned for the final match at the SCG where his new found aggression saw him net match figures of 5-142.

He has carried that persona into the World Cup.

The one area where Starc has been cruelled has been the lack of faith shown in him by the selectors.

His omission for the second Test of the summer marked the seventh time he had been dropped from the team.

When you consider he has played only 15 Tests one can only imagine how tough it must be having to cope with such a yo-yo ride.

Starc is an incumbent in the side having played in Sydney although he did so as a replacement for Johnson, to combine with Ryan Harris and Josh Hazlewood.

In that match Starc’s 5-142 off 41 overs outshone Hazlewood’s 3-95 from 46.

Johnson is a lock for the opening Test in the West Indies mid-year while Harris will be rested ahead of the Ashes as he stays home for the birth of his child.

That opens the door for Starc to hold his position.

He turned 25 in late-January and as such is a young man in cricket terms.

His main rivals in the future as Australia prepares for life post-Johnson, Harris and Siddle are the likes of Hazlewood (24), James Pattinson (24), Pat Cummins (21) and Jackson Bird (28).

To date Starc has collected 50 wicket Test wickets at 35.4 through his first 15 matches.

Those figures are not by any means startling but you get the impression that over the past few months Starc has become a different bowler.

If I was a selector I would definitely be giving Starc another run in the two-Test series in the Caribbean.

The result could prove well worth it.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 26 March 2015