“Considering Starc is the major pillar of the Australian line-up, they cannot afford to lose him before the series against Proteas. The last time Australia toured South Africa during the 2013-14 series, which was subsequent to the historic 5-0 win in the home Ashes, it was the Ashes hero Johnson, who continued to lead the side with the ball”.
Starc is vital for upcoming tours than Sydney Test
As a player, all you think about is how do you get through for the next match. Especially when you are the leading wicket-taker in the series and in a great rhythm, you will want to feature in every game and help your side win it. Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc is exactly in this position. A bruised heel left him out of the Boxing Day Test but Starc was adamant to do everything he could to make it to the final XI of the Sydney Test. Two days prior to the final Ashes Test, Starc was seen rigorously training at the nets on Tuesday. He apparently bowled continuously for about half an hour and showed no evidence of limping and by that, he made a strong statement in defence of his comeback.
Starc in three Tests has already bagged 19 wickets, one more than teammate Josh Hazlewood, despite playing a Test less than the latter. There is no denial that Starc was missed at Melbourne because of his pace and the length he bowled, he cleaned up the English tail pretty quickly or at least initiated the collapse. Now that the teams have headed to Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), not only Starc is desperate to go out with the team on Thursday but also the local spectators are as eagerly waiting to watch their home hero in action.
Yes, Sydney being Starc’s home ground, the pacer by no means wants to miss the Test. Considering Starc’s words that he is not struggling anymore and he even passed the fitness test, he has been roped in for the SCG Ashes Test. While he granted his this wish, Cricket Australia have not picked him for the ODI series. Keeping Australia’s South Africa tour in March in mind, Australia cannot risk losing Starc due to overload. Following the fiftieth Ashes Test, Starc will get a nearly two-month break before he flew to South Africa for the all-important full-fledged tour that includes all the formats. It is time for Starc to be practical and not emotional while taking these crucial calls. However, he does have some support here.
Australian Captain Steven Smith spoke defending Starc’s decision to play the last Ashes Test despite the bruised heel. “I think the break he’s had from bowling has helped his heel heal. It’s coming along nicely so he’s confident and you’ve also got to take the player’s word sometimes. Hopefully, he gets through and he’s fine.
Meanwhile, former Australians skipper Steve Waugh did not completely agree with Starc’s inclusion for the Sydney Test. “You want him playing but you want him at 100% and you want to make sure next series he’s ready to go at 100%, so if Starcy’s not 100% I’d be tempted to rest him, unfortunately for the Sydney public. They want to see him performing on his home ground and he wants to be out there as well, but you’ve got to think ‘ok, South Africa’s important’, so we’ll wait and see,” Waugh, cautioning Cricket Australia, said.
With extra live grass on the pitch in Sydney, it would have favoured more to Jackson Bird, who had a forgettable Boxing Day Test. However, he was Starc’s replacement and with the return of the latter, Bird will have to sit out again. Sydney has traditionally been a spinner’s paradise for a very long time now and whenever Australia have played there, they have had one or usually two spinners on the side. Which is why Ashton Agar was called up in the Test squad. And that way, for the dead rubber Sydney Test, Starc could have rested and ensured he comes out fully fit for the all-important South Africa tour.
However, Smith has opted to go with one pacer Nathan Lyon and his usual three-pace attack of Starc, Pat Cummins and Hazlewood.
Decision should be based on logic and not emotions
This was the second injury for Starc in a few months and that was definitely not a good sign. Starc was ruled out of the India tour, midway, after he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. He missed the Bangladesh tour and was rested during the limited-overs series against India, keeping Ashes in mind. The decisions worked as Starc successfully returned to fitness ahead of the Ashes 2017-18 and made a huge difference with his impact.
Considering Starc is the major pillar of the Australian line-up, they cannot afford to lose him before the series against Proteas. The last time Australia toured South Africa during the 2013-14 series, which was subsequent to the historic 5-0 win in the home Ashes, it was the Ashes hero Johnson, who continued to lead the side with the ball. Now that Starc has taken Johnson’s place, he must realise his responsibility as the spearhead of his Test side. There has been a tradition of Australia and South Africa dominating in each other’s backyard and last year by beating Australian in Australia, South Africa kept that tradition intact. It is Australia’s turn to repeat that when they tour the Proteas land in March. And that will be directly proportional to Starc’s performance, in many ways.
“Make sure you’re completely fit and don’t be doing further damage. You’re a key member of our line-up and don’t do further damage because we need you in South Africa,” Smith said to Starc and now its Starc’s duty to stand up to his skipper’s words.