The Starc Reality Of Why Australia Can't Afford Mitch
The numbers don't lie. In fact they tell a story which selectors can't ignore.
When Australia resume hostilities against the old foe England at Lord's tonight, after day one of the second Ashes Test was rained out, the visitors will again be without pace spearhead Mitchell Starc.
There is one change to the bowling attack. Josh Hazlewood comes in for James Pattinson, who bowled beautifully in the first Test but is being rested so his delicate back doesn't suffer too much strain.
But why did Hazlewood get the nod over Starc? You only have to look at four overs of cricket to get your answer.
We speak of the recent practice match against English County Cricket side Worcester. Late on day one in that game, Starc sent down four overs and took 1/27. By contrast, Hazlewood returned the miserly figures of 2/2 from his four overs.
Containment is vital in England. You just can't afford to bleed runs the way Starc does sometimes, no matter how many wickets you take when you're at your fiery best.
And Hazlewood contains batsmen better than Starc. Selectors have chosen him for the same reason they opted for Peter Siddle in the first Test -- a man who is notoriously tough to score off, and who duly conceded less than two runs per over in the first innings of the first Test, earning the praise of his skipper for so doing.
Of course, not everyone is happy with Starc's omission, and that's understandable. Australian sports fans love their team to attack.
But a quick glance at the most attacking Aussie bowlers of the past 10 or 20 years shows they haven't dominated England IN England they way they did at home.
Two examples, both of them bowling legends: Mitchell Johnson’s bowling average in England was 36.63 (which means 36.63 runs conceded for every wicket taken, which is pretty bad). And Brett Lee’s average was an even worse 45.44.
The three guys in the Aussie pace attack now -- Siddle, Hazlewood and Cummins -- all average under 30 in England. Starc averages just over 30, which isn't that bad. But he's still an attacker, not a container. And coach Justin Langer has made his horses-for-courses policy clear.
Langer wants bowlers suited to English conditions, where patience beats brute force. Therefore, case closed.
But the door is not necessarily closed forever for Starc. Brett Lee missed a whopping 14 straight Tests at the peak of his powers for Australia, but returned a better bowler.
No one thinks Starc will miss out back home next summer, but it is conceivable he won't play a Test on this tour. And that may not be a terrible thing for Australia.