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Mitchell Johnson column: Starc ready to leak runs in pursuit of wickets

I shared a bond with him as attacking left-arm bowlers

Gulf News

It is quite funny that Mitchell Starc looks up to me because I don’t feel that old. I have seen a fair bit of him coming through the ranks: mainly we have played the shorter formats together for Australia, and the first time I saw him bowl was in a one-day match against New South Wales. Even then he looked to have his one-day game under control, with good bounce and a deadly yorker.
He was brought into Australia’s bowling group quite early and he liked to listen and learn. Our bond, as very attacking left-arm bowlers, was pretty special. We would sit at the back of the bus, chill and talk about the game. Coming into international cricket you feel you have to change to improve, but actually the best thing is to back yourself.
Early in his Test career he was struggling to find out what worked best for him, his strengths and weaknesses, so I tried to help him as much as I could, but on an individual basis, because every bowler is different. He is a down-to-earth and relaxed sort of guy, until he steps over the line, and sometimes when he was young he would get frustrated when things weren’t working out, like in the first half of the Ashes series in England in 2015.
He walked back to his mark with his head down and I had to tell him about that. But after Shane Warne had made some public comments about him in 2015, he really came out and performed.
With the new ball up front at the Gabba I expect he will go full, and for that reason he could go for runs. But I like the fact that he will bowl full because he then has more of a chance of taking wickets — especially if he bowls a few bouncers first to push the England batsmen back and set them up, before the fuller ball that follows.
Against Alastair Cook, I expect all the Australian fast bowlers to bowl full at him and get him driving because he does not get far forward to drive. We used to talk about doing the same thing when India’s Virender Sehwag or Sachin Tendulkar came in, or Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan — a yorker first ball, straight at the pegs, or hit him on the pads. But again I would like to see more bouncers when he bowls with the new ball to force the batsmen back.
In his second spell, Starcy often comes round the wicket, to change the angle and target the batsman. He will bowl some cross-seamers, banging them into the pitch, to scuff the ball on one side and make it reverse-swing later on.
Cleaning up the tail is fast becoming his speciality: a couple of wickets early on, then cleaning up the tail means he will take a lot of five-fors. It is the angle of round the wicket that makes him so tricky.
When he is running in to bowl round the wicket, he looks as if he is running towards first slip, then he darts back into the stumps. He definitely has a different run-up from round the wicket and even good batters think the yorkers are going down the leg side.
Predominantly he reverses the ball away from right-handed batsmen, but he will set them up. He will not just swing it away from them. I expect him to stay round the wicket even to England’s left-handed tail-enders like Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, to intimidate them and knock their poles out.
I cannot tell you much about how to play his yorkers. We bowlers did not bowl at each other generally, and if we did happen to face him in the nets, he did not bowl yorkers in case he broke one of our toes. But I did face him in an Indian Premier League game once and found him quite hard to pick up because he snaps over his front leg with a catapult motion and some real whip. He was nice to me that game, but I got him out — if you play against a teammate you do not want to hurt him but you are playing for real. I finally got him with a yorker, I think.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017

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