Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Starc eyes full throttle Test return
The left-arm quick is ready to alter his approach as Australia gets set to take on Pakistan in a two-match Test series
Andrew Ramsey in Brisbane
17 November 2019, 06:21 PM AEST
After a winter spent working on ways to bowl "boring" on English pitches, Mitchell Starc is revelling in the prospect of dropping the handbrake and opening up the throttle in upcoming Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand.
Starc played just one of five Tests in this year's Ashes campaign that saw Australia retain the urn, and used much of his time on the sidelines working on subtle changes to his bowling style and strategies.
But now that he's back on home turf, and expecting traditionally fast, bouncy Australia pitches for the dual Domain Test Series starting with the first match against Pakistan at the Gabba from Thursday, he has filed away those alterations to be employed solely on a needs basis.
Instead, the 29-year-old has used his three Marsh Sheffield Shield matches so far this summer to hone the skills that have made him one of the most potent Test bowlers in Australia – sheer speed and reverse swing.
With James Pattinson ruled out of the Test series opener due to suspension, Starc is expected to take the new-ball at the Gabba.
And while he's looking forward to "running in and bowling fast", the skills he developed in concert with Bupa Support Team coach Troy Cooley during nets sessions throughout the Ashes campaign will ensure he keeps an eye on economy rates as well as the speed gun.
"The bowling mentality in the UK was low economy rates and hitting that length over and over again, and it was something that I worked on and improved," Starc told cricket.com.au today.
"But conditions are so different in the UK to Australia, there's probably not a lot of that you bring back home.
"I guess the big learning from the UK was that it’s not all about air speed.
"At times you can call upon it, but a lot of success there is built on economy rate and a holding pattern and being really, really consistent and almost bowling 'boring'.
"That's what our bowling group did really well in the UK, and it's why they were so successful over there.
"It's nice to come back to Australia where hopefully the wickets are fast and a bit bouncier, and go back to that mindset of controlled aggression.
"It's not out-and-out aggression, or trying to bowl as fast as I can and spraying the ball around.
"But a strength of mine is running in and bowling fast, so what I've learned over the last nine months is about having a bit of that control there as well."
Like a number of his Ashes squad mates, Starc returned to competitive cricket in Australia through the Gillette T20 campaigns against Sri Lanka and Pakistan last month, with his first red-ball spells for the summer coming for New South Wales in their recent Shield visit to the Gabba.
Following that game, in which the left-armer returned 1-129 from 39 overs, he undertook remedial work with Blues' bowling coach (and former New Zealand seamer) Andre Adams who helped with some subtle adjustments to Starc's bowling technique.
In addition to tweaking a couple of elements within Starc's action, Adams reinforced the importance of having a "positive feeling" when at the bowling crease and to recapture the elements that were working well when Starc has been bowling fast and fruitfully in the past.
"I felt like everything was happening a bit slowly at the Gabba and I didn’t have as good a feeling as with some of the stuff in the past," Starc said of his start to the Shield season.
"So I'd been trying to get the ball on my back hip a bit quicker, which I found got me in a better position to get that real snappy action."
Despite playing his next two Shield games on significantly slower surfaces at Drummoyne Oval and the Sydney Cricket Ground, Starc was both destructive and economical and was able to generate pronounced reverse swing to add to his pace and accuracy.
Against Tasmania at Drummoyne, he claimed remarkable match figures of 10-60 from almost 45 overs, and last week he finished with 6-98 from 32 overs in NSW's thumping win over Western Australia at the SCG.
While the hauls of wickets were telling, Starc took just as much confidence from the way he was able to maintain pressure and accuracy for over after over which bore testament to the work he undertook while on the periphery of the playing XI during the Ashes.
"That was a sign that some of that work was paying off and that I could potentially call upon that work done in the UK, when it came to slowing the rate of runs," Starc said today.
"But my mindset will change a bit, from bowling over there to being back home.
"You've still got that economy rate in the back of your mind, but my role is to take wickets and be aggressive."
It's in his guise as strike bowler that Starc has built a formidable reputation on his home tracks.
Of comparable fast bowlers, only Dennis Lillee (147), Mitchell Johnson (137) and Glenn McGrath (125) have surpassed Starc's current return of 121 wickets from their first 27 Tests in Australia.
And Starc has achieved the benchmark from at least 50 fewer overs than each of his celebrated predecessors.
The prospect of returning to faster, bouncier pitches for the two Tests against Pakistan and then three against New Zealand is likely to act as a salve for any disappointment Starc might have felt while watching much of Australia's Ashes quest from the sidelines.
Even though he admits the 10-100 he collected to earn player of the match honours in his most recent home Test appearance – against Sri Lanka at Canberra last February – felt like it happened "three years ago" given the unprecedented winter workload for the men's team in the UK.
"That (Canberra) Test match was really positive in that I had a really clear mindset - I just kept it simple, and tried to run in and bowl fast," Starc said.
"I probably learned a fair bit about mindset over the last nine to twelve months, and I've been pretty clear and pretty level which, in turn, has helped my bowling.
"Having that really clear mindset and keeping it pretty simple - just run in and bowl fast, and that's what I've done well in Australia.
"It's something that we had to do differently in the UK.
"It wasn't that we learned different ways to bowl, but perhaps different ways to be effective which we probably hadn't done in the UK before.
"Probably in the past I'd gone to the UK trying to bowl like I would in Australia.
"But now that I'm home, I can get back to what's worked for me in the past."
Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.
Warm-up match: Australia A v Pakistan, match drawn
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 15-16, WACA Ground
First Test: November 21-25, Gabba (Seven, Fox & Kayo)