It’s better to talk about the joy of watching Mitchell Starc rather than controversial matters.
Well, just less than twenty-four hours left for the second Test to commence at Port Elizabeth. But the enthusiasm has been dented by the David Warner and Quinton de Kock controversy. Be it in the print and electronic media or social media, the analysis regarding this matter is still on and fans and critics are dishing out various theories.
Who started it first? Who is the actual villain? Or how gentler the cricketers should be? Such questions are asked repeatedly in Facebook Groups which is triggering an ugly argument among the fans who’re mostly neutrals. The comment section continues to increase in numbers and attracting other young fans to join the bandwagon of arguments, which already left the Australia and South African horizon to settle in an Indo-Pak clash.
Fans and critics always forget cricket has never been a gentleman’s game. Aggression and mental intimidation have always been a part and parcel of this game. Of course, there always has to have a limit, but do you think, any sports can survive without that ultra-dose of aggression? You don’t want any sports to be boring, do you?
Somewhere in the Facebook Group or newspaper, Mitchell Starc could occupy some space for his enthralling exhibition of reverse-swing on the slow, low and abrasive surface of Durban. The situation is similar like the summer of 1992 when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis’ devastating display of reverse-swing crushed England at their own backyard, but as, the torchbearer of cricket’s traditional thinker, England did not accept it. Anything unorthodox is an enemy of traditions and when you fail to decipher it, it is a black magic!
Wasim swung it from round and over the wicket while Waqar crushed toes at Lord’s and Oval, by making the old ball swing late at an astonishing pace. But, the English media and some of the ex-cricketers ignored the excellence of 2Ws and overshadowed their skilful display with hate statements. The newspapers were loaded with controversial news rather than Wasim and Waqar’s brilliance.
Thirteen years later, a certain Andrew Flintoff and Simone Jones would mesmerize the all-conquering Australian side to break the Ashes jinx. England did not tag reverse-swing as a black magic in 2005, but were left praising about the brilliant exponents of this art – Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
“Reverse-swing is an art,” this statement of Waqar Younis in 1994 has been accepted by the cricketing world and at present, on modern-day tracks, which is more suited to batters and spinners to an extent, for the pacers, the so-called black magic has become a must-skill to bag wickets. Two of cricket’s traditional rivals, Australia and England, utilizing this art at its maximum best.
Anyhow, in 1992, as a school kid, the display of amazing 2Ws attracted me more than the filthy controversies. Similarly, twenty-six years later, I am absolutely amazed by Mitchell Starc’s skill with the old ball. At Durban, when he came round the wicket to fire the old cherry straight into the blockhole from an acute angle, the sight was one to relish for a fan like me, who could forget anyone and everything for such spectacular moments.
Starc’s run-up is not something like Imran Khan, Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib Akhtar or Dennis Lillee to trigger the rush of adrenaline, nor does he has that killer-look like a an Andy Roberts or a Sylvester Clarke to instill fear in the hearts of a batsman, but as soon as the old red-ball leaves his hand, while bowling round the wicket, after completing all the complex mechanism of a bowling action, it’s a story of thrill-and-chill.
The old red-ball starts to move in the air at pace, giving the impression of going towards middle and leg, but at the last moment, it changes its direction to the utter astonishment of batsmen and lands at the base of middle and offstump to disturb the woodwork. For me, the sound of a ball breaking the stump is as sweet as the ball kissing the middle of the bat. The sound is generated because of the sheer skill of the pace bowler on a slow and low deck. It’s never easy to create a hole in the defence of a Test batsman, but a skilful speed-merchant can break the wall with his art.
Starc can swing the new ball by holding it with an upright seam, but for me, he is not a treat to watch with the new cherry. Yes, when the ball moves on a fresh deck, definitely, it leaves me in all praise for the pacer, but when a pacer moves the old ball, it outweighs the joy of watching a conventional swing bowling. Very few can do such as this a tough art to master. Thankfully, Starc is one of the best exponents of reverse-swing at present in the absence of Dale Steyn.
Now, the choice is up to you. Do you wish to relish the moments gifted by cricketers like Starc or keep your brain busy with Warner-de-Kock debate? I preferred to talk about Starc with my friends rather than the controversial subjects. It’s very important for me to enjoy the beauty of this game. I decided to watch the videos of Starc’s reverse-swing display from round the wicket before the second Test. If you wish, you can join me!