In his fledgling career for Australia, Mitchell Starc has already raised a lot of expectations. The 6ft 5-inch tall bowler from New South Wales plans to threaten the English batsmen at the Ashes with his high release point, exceptional pace and sharp late swing.
He uses the angle that he creates to good effect getting the ball to hold its line against right-handed batsman consistently before employing the sharp in-dipping delivery to get the bowled and leg-before dismissals into the frame. However, it is his contest with Alastair Cook that is being tipped as one to watch out for.
It will be Starc’s first Ashes series and the pressure will be high. He is one of the bright sparks in this tentative Australian Ashes squad, which has received the most hostile bashing from home and in England.
He has taken 30 wickets in the nine Test matches that he has played. He struggled to take wickets on the tour of India but that must have been a fruitful learning curve for him.
He has given an exhibition of his wicket-taking ability in the recent warm-up game against Somerset where he finished with impressive figures of 6 for 74.
He was in fact suffering with an ankle injury during the tour to India. He underwent a successful surgery to remove a bone spur in his ankle and is now raring to go.
“I’ve got no pain now, it was very painful in India. It’s something I don’t have to worry about now, or worry about having a jab or being careful bowling this many balls, it’s all gone,” the Australian said.
He will have a lot of workload on his shoulders given that Australia do not have an outstanding spinner like Graeme Swann who can plug one end.
Mitchell Starc has worked really hard with his preparation for the Ashes and his priorities are clear. He has always wanted to be a top-quality Test match bowler and that is why he decided to skip cash-rich T-20 leagues.
“I chose to play county cricket for Yorkshire last year to develop my cricket with the hope of coming on this tour (The Ashes). Financially it (the Indian Premier League) would have been brilliant but it wasn’t a hard decision – I want to play as much Test cricket as I can.” he said ahead of the first Test at Trent Bridge.
It is important to have that vital experience in order to get used to the different weather conditions. Moreover, the Duke ball which is used in England can be difficult to handle for the first time. Especially for a bowler like Starc who depends heavily upon the swing that he extracts with the new ball.
He found the experience valuable and also got to work with some renowned campaigners. He expressed his satisfaction with the preparation and said, “I hadn’t bowled with a Duke ball before so it was nice to learn off Jason Gillespie, the coach at Yorkshire, and have Ryan Sidebottom as well to pick his brains.”
Mitchell Starc knows that not all surfaces will offer movement early on in the game and hence he has been picking up reverse-swing lessons. England have surprised Australia with that weapon in the past and Starc is ready to learn from his opponents.
He talked about some new elements that he is trying to incorporate in his game. He said, “We noticed they (England) bowled a lot of cross-seam balls as soon as they noticed that it did not swing. We will have to keep that in our minds if nothing is happening, go cross-seam and get variation from the pitch with the one that skids through or kicks up. We have been looking at it in the nets.”
He will be given the critical job of targeting the prized wicket of England captain Alastair Cook. The left-handed batsman has been particularly vulnerable to left-handed fast bowlers who have the ability to take the ball away from him and then get one to hold its line.
He struggled against New Zealand’s Trent Boult and there is a list of left-handed bowlers who have made him his ‘bunny’ including Zaheer Khan and Mitchell Johnson. Mitchell Starc has made a note of that and has expressed his desire to add his name to that list of bowlers.
Mitchell Starc’s relaxed and composed exterior can deceptively disguise the shrewd and sharp plotting that goes on behind the polite smile. He is a stark contrast to his opening bowling partner, James Pattinson, in that regard. He might not be an active sledger but he will make the ball do the talking when the arch-rivals go head to head.