Australia’s spearhead Mitchell Starc is intent on “terrorising” England’s top order in the forthcoming Ashes after the fashion of Mitchell Johnson, as he reaches the end of an injury rehabilitation far less rushed than his previous spell on the sidelines.
Following the emergence of a foot stress injury during the Test tour of India in March, Starc was placed on an expedited recovery programme to ensure his availability for the Champions Trophy in England in May, whereupon the still-healing foot was aggravated – though not re-fractured – by the rapid return. By Starc’s admission, that decision followed plenty of “risk versus reward” discussions between himself, Cricket Australia medical staff and selectors, but this time around he has enjoyed more leisurely progress.
It’s been around two weeks now since Starc first started bowling off his long run in the SCG nets for New South Wales, and he is set to take his improving rhythm and swing to Hurstville Oval on Friday to turn out in the domestic limited-overs tournament. That appearance will be Starc’s first on his road to the Gabba, where he quite likes the idea of emulating Johnson’s feats in 2013-14.
“It’s a very different Australian team and an opportunity for a few of the younger, less experienced guys to get on top of them much like Mitch did to some of their batsmen through that series [in 2013-14],” Starc said in Sydney. “They’ve got [Joe] Root and [Alastair] Cook up the top who’ve played a lot of cricket and probably their main guys with the bat, the guys in the top order around them are pretty inexperienced and hopefully we can exploit that in our conditions and if we can, really get on top of them in the first Test like Mitch did a couple of years ago.
“This time we’ve got a few guys who can bowl pretty quick and bowl some good bouncers, and we’ve got a really solid attack who complement each other. If it’s not me, you’ve got Pat Cummins bowling fast bouncers, you’ve got Josh Hazlewood bowling consistent line and length, so much like that attack did when Jono took all those wickets, I think we complement each other really well. You throw in Jackson Bird, [Nathan] Coulter-Nile’s bowling well as well, so five really good guys there, Patto [James Pattinson] if he’s fit to go.
“We’ve got a really good attack there, it’s not down to one person, everyone will like to bowl like Jono and terrorise the Poms like he did and take 1000 wickets in a series, but the great thing for us is we’ve got a young group that complement each other really nicely.”
Starc provided an insight as to the sometimes elusive nature of bowling fast when he said he was not sure how quick he would be to begin with for NSW, but he has no qualms about charging in to the crease after a sturdy rehabilitation period.
“It’s been great to have the time to progress it really nicely and gradually rather than having to throw all these things in over four weeks and having to get back to play,” he said. “I’ll be trying to bowl fast. Whether that happens straight away is yet to be seen, but I won’t be holding back. Looking forward to playing cricket again and trying to terrorise a few batsmen, take a few wickets and contribute to a few NSW wins.
“Heading into England we knew there was still some stuff going on with the foot, it hadn’t healed properly. It didn’t re-fracture so it was a good result in the end, but I still had a lot of pain in there. This time it’s feeling really good, it’s feeling strong, there’s no pain in there doing any bowling, and that extended time to make sure it was right and progress through different stages of running and strength stuff before having to bowl has really left me in a good position heading into the summer, which I’ll hopefully play a big part in.
“If it was a Test series I probably wouldn’t have played [Champions Trophy], the fact it was England and one-dayers in a major tournament … there were a lot of conversations with the medicos about risk versus reward, it didn’t re-fracture but there was a bit of pain in there. We needed the break after, but it’s worked out really well to be 100% heading into the summer. It didn’t go to plan in the Champions Trophy but it’s good to go now.”
A few questions surround the makeup of Australia’s Test XI for Brisbane, not least the middle order where major doubts surround the No. 6 batting or allrounder position, and the identity of the wicketkeeper. While adamant that Nathan Lyon had to play as the nation’s No. 1 spin bowler, Starc suggested there might be room to squeeze himself, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson into the same team, provided all were performing with the bat.
“I think you’ve got to pick him [Lyon], it’s just whether you can balance a team with four quicks around him and whether guys like Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and myself can bat well enough to fit us all into the balance of the team,” Starc said. “You’ve got to pick Nathan, he’s bowling so well and he’s a big part of our team, not only with experience but his numbers speak for themselves as well. I don’t think you can’t play him. You’ve got to play him in all the Test matches.
“There’s always been chats about it, not so much the batting to squeeze us all in the team, just to help the team out whether you end up with a collapse at the top, or a bit like Mitch and Hadds [Brad Haddin] had to do in the last Ashes a few times was bat really well to put big totals on the board, that’s what the conversations more so are about, contributing with the bat because we do have the ability to do that. That does help being able to squeeze the four bowlers in when we can bat. Maybe we can get to the point where we can squeeze in.”
Sadly for Pattinson, his recovery from recurring back trouble has struck another hurdle, placing his availability for the three Sheffield Shield rounds before the Ashes opener in considerable doubt. “Three of them we know are on track, but James Pattinson’s had a little bit of a setback,” the fast bowling coach David Saker said in India. “We’re not sure how bad it is at the moment.”
Starc indicated he had been pencilled in to play the first two of those Shield rounds if fit, with the third to depend upon how much bowling he had been required to do up to that point.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo