It’s worth reminding yourself that Mitchell Starc really does have an awful lot going for him

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England’s batting average in this series was the lowest in an Ashes series since 1890. Mitchell Starc opened the bowling against them in all five Tests, yet it doesn’t feel like he’ll get his fair share of the credit.

We often think this about Starc. Is that fair? A certain former Australia leg-spinner certainly seems to have it in for him – but we’re not really talking about that. Even the commentators who don’t routinely call for him to be dropped don’t seem to see him as significant as he surely is.

Pristine Pat Cummins was an inadvertent attention-hogger even before he was made captain. Cameron Green and Scott Boland have novelty to draw people’s attention. Starc has been around for 66 Tests and 274 wickets now. He has something of that taken-for-granted wallpaper quality that is also possessed by Joe Root.

Maybe it’s the fact that some of Starc’s greatest attributes are innate. Bowlers who ‘keeping running in’ or who have impeccable accuracy are respected for those things. You don’t earn the same admiration for being 1.96m tall or for being left-handed. But that doesn’t mean those qualities aren’t important too.

England have a bowler with a high release point in Ollie Robinson. They also have a fast bowler in Mark Wood. They do not have a left-armer. Australia have all of these qualities in just one guy.

That’s a pretty big thing. It’s an incredible thing, actually. It’s not just a can’t-believe-your-luck package of rare commodities in its own right, it’s a gift to the rest of the bowling attack too. There aren’t many bowling changes that Cummins can make without the batters immediately being asked a whole different set of questions.

Starc’s mere presence is good for Cummins the captain because it’s very good for Cummins the bowler. It’s good for Josh Hazlewood too. It’s good for Jhye Richardson; it’s good for Cameron Green; and it’s good for Scott Boland.

The equation only works if that linchpin can hold his own though. Starc took a wicket with the first ball of this Ashes series and he finished with 19 wickets at 25.36. He played in every match and he bowled 26 overs more than any other seamer.

Imagine having that player and not thinking that he’s a really, really big deal. If we were in charge of Australia, Mitchell Starc is just about the last player we’d think about dropping.

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8 comments

  1. The thing that stood out from the Cricviz pre-series statistical review of playing tests in Australia was quite how much of an advantage it is to have a left arm fast bowler. Made me think that maybe they should have taken Garton and Topley (they could both have been injured, don’t know). Not that they would have suddenly become as good as Starc, but as you say, they would have posed different questions.

    What’s the quality that is actually really useful for winning tests, but attracts the least praise? Not something like being a boring, defensive batter, lots of people praise that. Could be, for a bowler, being really tall. Or, for a decent batsman, being a below average keeper. No one likes a below average keeper, or the idea that having a good keeper doesn’t matter that much; but if your other keeping options can’t bat, having a decent batsman who is prepared to take the abuse for sometimes dropping catches could make you a much better team. Having a bowler who is really good at tearing up the pitch in the right place for your spinner? Having a captain who’s a bit of an arsehole? Having a worst bowler who is not that much worse than your other bowlers?

    1. It’s tough to be an economical donkey overs spinner who gives the seamers a rest without anyone complaining that you should toss it up a bit more and develop a mystery ball.

      1. Yes, I was going to say that Giles’s importance was appreciated, but I seem to remember that was really only towards the end of his career. I see Bess was the English spinner with the best economy rate in the 2021 county championship, which doesn’t fill me with confidence that it’s a stat that will transfer to tests.

  2. Since my ill-advised mention of Baby Shark in close proximity to a mention of Australian cricketers in a comment the other day, my head has occasionally been filled with the following, to the tune of the aforementioned paen to infant selachians:

    Mitchell Starc do do de doo do doo
    Mitchell Starc do do de doo do doo
    Sabina Park do do de doo do doo
    Sabina Park do do de doo do doo
    Jofra Arch-er do de doo do doo
    Jofra Arch-er do de doo do doo
    Victor Marks do do de doo do doo
    Michael Clarke do do de doo do doo

    Etc

      1. Baby Shark XI

        Ian Bell
        Robin Smith
        Andy Moles
        Robert Key
        Ollie Pope
        Warren Hegg +
        Graeme Swann
        Steven Finn
        Gladstone Small
        Courtney Walsh
        Min Patel

        Bit of a long tail.

      2. Alternative (Fat-Tailed, England) Baby Shark XI

        Rory Burns
        Andrew Strauss
        Graham Gooch
        Michael Vaughan
        Graham Thorpe
        Tony Greig
        Alan Knott
        Ashley Giles
        Darren Gough
        Stuart Broad
        Simon Jones

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