My latest player to watch comes from the side that I’m backing to go all the way and claim the World Cup trophy.
Mitchell Starc has enjoyed a superb return to form over the past few months, and is now seen as one of the most in-form bowlers in ODI cricket. Starc’s recent returns have been mightily impressive; he picked up 15 wickets in the recently concluded tri-series at the impressive average of 16.33. But it was not just his figures and wicket-taking ability that were so impressive.
The left-arm seam blower enthralled with both his natural pace and clever use of swing with the new ball. Indeed, it is with the new ball in his hand that Starc appears most dangerous. His ability to swing the white ball will make him a real handful in the World Cup. Swing bowling has dwindled in the ODI arena in the last decade in favour of reverse-swing, spin and raw pace, but with Starc in the form of his life he could just reverse the trend.
His recent rise to spearheading the attack during the tri-series may have come as a slight surprise, but his career statistics suggest he is a truly world class ODI seam bowler. 61 wickets in just 33 matches at a strike rate of 25.5 are testament to his incisiveness. His economy rate of exactly 5 is also supremely impressive, even more so when you consider his wicket-taking exploits. To be a genuine strike bowler and also keep the opposition’s scoring rate in check is a rarity in the modern game.
He doesn’t have a bad partner in crime either, Mitchell Johnson is currently the most feared bowler in world cricket, and if he can back Starc up, or vice versa, then the opposition will be hard pushed to make a rapid start against their Aussie hosts. All great ODI teams have possessed a match winning left arm seamer – Australia now have two!
The left arm angle is difficult to negate at the best of times, let alone when the ball is delivered at nudging 90mph and with wicked late swing. Starc’s ability to swing the balls both ways is crucial in his ability to trouble both left and right handers. With the modern emphasis, particular on Australasian pitches, to go after the bowlers in the first powerplay overs, Starc will be integral to his side’s chances of advancing in the tournament.
The opening match for Starc couldn’t be against better opposition. Having chastened England during the tri-series, he will get another go at them on Valentine’s Day at the MCG. Add Johnson into the mix, and England may be wondering where their runs will be coming from.
Australia not only possess an incredibly strong squad, but also a remarkably in-form XI. Their top order have made tons of runs in the past few months, and the back up bowlers to Johnson and Starc have acquitted themselves very handily too.
Without Starc, I would still make Australia a strong favourite to make the final, but with him taking the new ball, they are the clear favourites to lift the trophy in six weeks time.