MITCHELL Starc landed in the care of Jason Gillespie at Yorkshire this winter with detailed instructions from Cricket Australia governing how many balls he should bowl, and when, and dictating when he should rest. Like every player in CA’s control, he was required to enter information about his workload, his sleep patterns and his general ”wellness” into a database that could be accessed from anywhere in the world.
”It was quite strict and we had to adhere to that, and we did, and Mitch has to take a lot of credit for it,” said Gillespie, the former Test paceman who, as coach of Yorkshire, is up to speed on modern theories of injury management that upset some members of the old-school fast-bowling fraternity.
Starc’s height is listed as 196 centimetres in his Cricinfo profile but the 22-year-old is still growing and gets his size-14 boots custom made. Leading into an Australian summer that promises to pitch South Africa’s world-beating Test attack against a rising Australian pace pack, Starc is perhaps the most improved of an exciting young bunch.
Only Shane Watson and Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis claimed more wickets than Starc up to the semi-final stage of the World Twenty20, and Gillespie believes he commands selection in Australia’s best attack for the first Test at the Gabba.
”He’s an absolute wicket taker,” Gillespie said. ”He keeps it pretty simple, really, he runs in and hits the track up front. He bowls over and around the wicket and he bowls fast, full and straight.
”He would certainly be in my first-Test team. Left-arm variety is good for Australia, and from a selection point of view he ticks a lot of boxes. The left-armer creates rough for the right-arm spinner so that is one small factor. The fact is he bowls 90 miles an hour and swings the ball.”
Starc has also proved the most resilient of Australia’s young quicks over a 12-month period during which Pat Cummins and James Pattinson spent long stretches on the sidelines.
Coach Mickey Arthur has heralded a new way of managing the young fast bowlers, which is likely to see the quicks aged under 25 rotated in Tests until their bodies are strong enough to handle the rigours of constant combat.
That means Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus will be the mainstays of the attack while Starc, Cummins and Pattinson might play only one or two Tests at a time.
The debate escalated when Arthur admitted CA was warned by sports scientists that Pattinson would break down during last summer’s Sydney Test, and he missed the next two months with a foot injury.
Team performance chief Pat Howard admits CA is fighting a ”perception battle” in the way it cares for its quicks.
”We want players to play, but when players aren’t ready to play long-form cricket we are more conservative,” he said.
”We talk about the guys from the ’80s and ’90s, but there wasn’t that chopping and changing from four overs to 30 overs to 10 overs and that’s where a lot of the differences are. Pat Cummins hasn’t touched a red ball for a long time and that’s inconceivable to a player from 20 years ago, but it’s the reality.
”Starcy was probably the most durable young bowler over the past 12 months and he’s bowled all the time. We’re very proud of where we’ve gone over the last 12 months. We appreciate some guys have got injured, we appreciate Pat Cummins was born in 1993, and it’s going to take some time. But as you can see he can cope with a lot of short-form cricket, he can keep going. That’s not to say he’s not in the mix for Test matches but is he in the mix for lots of Test matches at this stage? No.”
Gillespie, who overcame constant setbacks as a young fast bowler, says Starc’s improvement since making his Test debut against New Zealand last November showed the value of CA’s approach.
Starc shadowed the Test squad last summer, replaced Pattinson for the last Test in the West Indies and headed to England, where he collected seven wickets in two-first class outings for Yorkshire.
He has been a standout in limited-overs cricket for Australia since.
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