We remember seeing a story in the local paper once where a woman had come second in some sort of vegetable growing competition despite being the only person to have entered that particular category.
Let’s say she grew a broccoflower – which is apparently a thing. In a world class diss, the judges decided that Janice’s broccoflower was only worthy of a silver medal despite unarguably being the best broccoflower on display. Second in a competition of one. Janice probably wished she’d never entered.
Sections of the Australian media have a tendency to do the reverse of this. They perceive the nation’s best fast bowlers as being exceptional purely on the basis that they’re the best available. At times like now, when there’s been talk that Mitchell Johnson or Ryan Harris being omitted from the Test team, that makes perfect sense – Australia do indeed have some very good quick bowlers. However, a couple of years ago, back when the team was rubbish, it led to a slightly delusional confusion between promise and quality.
Back then, during Johnson’s lull, a whole host of young quicks were touted as being possibilities for the Test team. They were spoken of largely because there weren’t many established players doing a decent job, but many people took the fact that they were being mentioned as a weird sort of proof of their ability.
Mitchell Starc was one of these players. He played a few Tests, and may have done a bit better if he’d ever been allowed more than one match in a row, but it wasn’t some devastating start. It was promising, but not much more than that. It rather feels as if he’s moved on from that now though.
Not much has happened in Test cricket since then, but there’s increasingly a sense that Starc is now fully-formed. Sometimes it makes sense to distinguish between one-day and Test formats, but it depends on the player. Starc is no Nathan Bracken style white ball specialist. What has made him so frighteningly successful in the shorter formats is just as relevant – if not more relevant – in the grown-ups’ game.
For England fans there’s a horrible suspicion that this summer will be when the left-armer kicks off his flip-flops and makes himself comfortable in Test cricket. He’s spent time with Yorkshire. He’s toured once before. Plenty of the usual mistakes that every foreign quick bowler makes are behind him. Invisibly, when no-one was really watching, plenty of lessons have already been learnt.
The broccoflower competition’s a bit more hotly-contested this year, but Starc may still secure first place.