“Starc is being criticised as we have seen him deliver many magical spells in the past and as a result the expectations from him are huge. He is too good not to get his lost form back”
Mitchell Starc is without a doubt one of the most fearsome fast bowlers in world cricket. Known for his speed and toe-crushing yorkers, Starc emerged from the shadows of another Mitchell – Johnson – during the ICC World Cup 2015 to become one of the best talents in the world. His work-rate too is commendable. He never asks to be rested, regardless of the workload and more often than not, does the job for his team. In 2016, he did a commendable job in Sri Lanka where he finished as the leading wicket-taker for Australia in the Test series with an astonishing 24 wickets at 15.16. The next best Australian pacer was Josh Hazlewood with just 7 scalps. However, during the course of the series against India at home, Starc has come under severe scrutiny for his underwhelming performances.
Starc in this series so far has 12 wickets to his name, 2 behind Pat Cummins and 5 behind Nathan Lyon. In the first two Tests, Starc tasted success when it came to getting the openers out, but it was the in-form middle-order batsmen that Starc struggled against. Virat Kohli especially seemed to be in absolutely no trouble against him whatsoever – defending, driving and pulling Starc with ease. Ajinkya Rahane too looked at Starc at someone who he could get runs off. Needless to say that, no bowler has clearly managed to trouble Cheteshwar Pujara this time around. In fact, Starc has dismissed Kohli thrice in 10 matches, Pujara twice in 8 matches and Rahane just once in 7 matches. These three batsmen happen to be the backbone of India’s batting unit, at least in the last 3 to 4 years.
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For a strike bowler like Starc, dismissing the top-order batsmen should be of priority. Yes, he has tasted a lot of success against Murali Vijay – having dismissed him 6 times in 7 matches, but his ability to churn out wickets one after the other is something that has gone missing. While his pace has not been lost, it is evident that his in-swingers are not as deadly as they used to be not too long ago. This is something that is also observed by former Australian batsman Dean Jones. “Well, Starc has lost his inswinger. His arm and wrist are not holding up as he releases the ball. You look at someone like Mohammed Shami and you can see the difference,” Jones told Sportstar.
Just before the Test series against South Africa in 2016, Starc suffered an injury during training for which he required about 30 to 35 stitches. He missed the Sheffield Shield games and the warm-up matches before that and was directly given a go in the first Test of the match at Perth. Starc picked up 14 wickets at 30.14 in that series but it is not clear whether he has recovered fully from that or that injury is something which is holding Starc back from delivering his best.
Also, it is also well known that Starc for a while now – at least since 2015 – has been bowling with a bone spur on his right angle, which causes painful inflammation from time to time. Cricket Australia assured Starc that it would be taken care of and that the speedster can continue to bowl, but surgery is inevitable. It has been three years since it was revealed and Starc has bowled continuously in competitive cricket, not taking breaks in between. He had to miss the final Test of Australia’s our of India 2017 and consequently the Indian T20 league due to a stress fracture. However, the threat still looms.
According to Jones, Starc will miss at least two months of action if he goes through with the surgery. However, for now, he and the Australian team management do not seem to be in much of a hurry to get him under the knife.
Shane Warne referred to Starc as ‘soft’ and called Starc’s performance at Adelaide ‘Atrocious’. While those are strong words, leaving out Starc is not a solution as there are no suitable replacements for a man, who has close to 200 wickets in just under 50 Tests. Leaving out Starc immediately gives the opposition the psychological advantage and with just one more match left in the series, there is no reason why Starc cannot return to his deadly best in order to help his side level the series.
Starc is expected to play a key role even in the upcoming World Cup. It is unlikely that Starc will have surgery any time before that. However, he needs to take care of his body in the months and days leading up to it so that he does not aggravate it. He is going to be one of Australia’ key figure in that tournament. However, they might consider giving him a break after that.
One cannot pin Australia’s poor series against India on their bowling. It is their batsmen who are not putting enough runs on the board, giving the opposition the initiative. Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, and Lyon are good sets of bowlers to have in any line-up. Starc is being criticised as we have seen him deliver many magical spells in the past and as a result the expectations from him are huge. He is too good not to get his lost form back.