The indomitable rise of Mitchell Starc with the red ball
Pakistan team celebrating after levelling series versus England © Getty Images

A bowler’s life in this batsman-dominated game is gruelling; they have to be exceptional to catch attention. The ongoing Warne-Muralitharan Trophy has been ruled by the bowlers, especially the Sri Lankan spinners, who wrecked havoc in the first two Tests and helped their side clinch the three-match series. The left-arm lanky pacer from Sydney, Mitchell Starc, too has been a sensation to watch throughout the series but his performances have been camouflaged by his counter-parts. Suraj Choudhari emphasises the irresistible rise of Starc with the red leather.

Starc is an intimidating bowler who epitomizes Australian brand of cricket. His expertise in the shorter formats is eminent and it was only time he replicated his magic with the red cherry. The ongoing series against Sri Lanka is a testament of him to have done so in longer formats. Starc has already scalped 23 wickets in three Tests with almost an innings to go at an overwhelming average of 13.52. The fact that he picked all his wickets on docile Sri Lankan wickets where there was hardly any assistance for the pace bowlers makes his run a splendid one. The pitch on all three occasions had massive backing for the spin bowlers, which has also been Sri Lanka’s primary weapon. Out of 49 Australian wickets to have fallen in the five innings, Sri Lankan spinners have accounted for 45, which corroborates the belief. But Starc bowled with sheer discipline to have such healthy numbers to his name.

Starc is undoubtedly at the prime of his career. After finishing as joint-highest wicket-taker in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, he has never looked back. Starc’s meticulousness, penetration and durability make him different from other bowlers. His soaring height, and the high-arm action helps him get that zip and extract extra bounce from the surface. And one not needs to mention his lethal, toe-crushing Yorker, which he brings into good use against the tail-enders.

In the entire series, Starc bowled with a lot discipline. There was hardly any swing or lateral movement off the surface but the new ball did make some movement. And Starc certainly made the utmost use of this by hitting the right areas and keeping it accurately outside the off-stump. There was not a single occasion throughout the series, where he did not get his team an early breakthrough, which is like gold-dust in any format. His immaculate line and length along with some zip helped him chip in with wickets on a consistent basis. In fact, his precision was the key behind his success on surfaces where every other pace bowler struggled to get going. His knack of incessantly targeting the area outside off helped him achieve fruitful dividends. He got the ball to move away from the right-hander and was also reversing it when it was old. His spell at Galle could be the best example of Starc getting the reverse swing.

Starc kept it simple with the tail; he pitched it up and brought his Yorkers to full use, showing great temperament and bowling long spells with minimal slip-ups. Some highlights from his run are –

* Starc got the better of Dimuth Karunaratne on all five occasions.

*During the course, he also became the 37th Australian to have scalped 100 Test wickets, a feat, which he achieved during the Galle Test.

*Starc is also the first fast bowler from Australia in last 36 years to take a 10-wicket haul in the sub-continent.

*Sri Lanka’s opening stands in this series read: 6, 6, 0, 5, 2, 8. Starc has been the reason behind these poor numbers on five occasions. The only time he missed was during the second innings of second Test but got the other opener in his second over.

*Starc now has 23 scalps in three games in Sri Lanka with almost an innings to go; he is second on the list of highest wicket-takers for Australia in Sri Lanka. Shane Warne sits at the apex with 37 scalps in eight games.

*Starc’s figures of 6 for 50 in the second innings of the Galle Test are also the finest bowling performance recorded by an Australian bowler in Sri Lanka till date.

Starc is playing his 28th Test at the moment, and his rise in this format has been enticing to watch. He has lived up to the expectations and now instigates fear in batsmen’s mind. His rise in Test cricket can be explained in the table below:

Matches Wickets Average BBI 5-wicket haul
Overall 28 Tests 114 27.14 6/50 7
First 14 Tests 45 36.22 6/154 2
Last 14 Tests (with an innings to go) 69 21.21 5/50 5

Starc’s numbers in the recent games, which came in last 18 months, are a testament to his augmentation as a Test bowler. He has adapted to the conditions and established himself as a Test bowler. With age being on his side and the bowler beaming with talent, one can only expect Starc to get better and script more records.

This article was first published on CricketCountry.

(Suraj Choudharian avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with CricLife)