Mitchell Starc is on the verge of joining Australian cricket royalty, with the paceman expected to reach 300 Test wickets at the Gabba next week.
The 32-year-old, currently sitting on 296 Test scalps following an impressive performance against the West Indies in Adelaide, will become just the seventh Australian to pass the milestone, cementing his status as one of cricket’s modern greats.
Starc will also presumably leapfrog former teammates Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson on the all-time list next year — he only needs 18 wickets to slide into the top five — doing so while maintaining a better bowling average than the duo.
In eight months, it’s entirely feasible that only two Australian pace bowlers will sit above Starc on the wicket-takers tally — Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath.
MOST TEST WICKETS FOR AUSTRALIA
708 — Shane Warne
563 — Glenn McGrath
450 — Nathan Lyon
355 — Dennis Lillee
313 — Mitchell Johnson
310 — Brett Lee
296 — Mitchell Starc
It’s a stunning achievement for the New South Welshman, particularly considering he was pigeonholed as a white-ball specialist early in his career.
Starc played 14 Tests between 2011 and 2014, typically only sliding in the starting XI when Johnson, Ryan Harris or Peter Siddle were unavailable for selection.
He claimed 45 Test wickets at 36.22 during that period — respectable numbers for a young quick, but hardly earth-shattering.
During the 2014 Gabba Test against India, when Starc registered figures of 0/83 in the first innings, the late Shane Warne made headlines for criticising the left-armer’s body language.
“His body language has to be tougher. He just looks a bit nonchalant. A bit hunched shoulders,” he said on Channel 9 commentary.
“He just looks a bit soft.”
As injury setbacks interrupted his career, Starc was at risk of falling out of favour with national selectors — until the 2015 World Cup.
Australia lifted the trophy on home soil, with Starc finishing as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 22 scalps at 10.18.
It prompted calls for him to be rushed back into the Test side, and Harris’ retirement later that year created a vacancy that Starc quickly occupied.
He’s been a mainstay of the Test team since, combining with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to form one of the most formidable attacks this century.
Last summer, Warne boldly called for Starc to be axed from the starting XI ahead of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
He responded by knocking over England opener Rory Burns with the first delivery of the series, finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker with 19 breakthroughs.
Starc is showing no signs of slowing down, recently indicating that Test cricket would always be the priority — if forced to sacrifice one of the formats, white-ball cricket would be the first to go.
His decision to repeatedly skip the Indian Premier League has also been widely praised, as it allows the paceman to conserve energy and focus on international commitments.
It’s estimated Starc has sacrificed $10 million in additional salary by missing the last seven editions of the lucrative T20 tournament.
“Tests always first,” he told reporters last month.
“Tests far above white-ball. I’ll decide on the rest as I go and where my body’s at and how I feel about it.
“I’d love to, selection and form pending, very much like to continue playing Test cricket as long as we can.”
Over the past seven years, Starc has exploited swing bowling better than anyone in long-format cricket; his ability to run through the tail with the second new ball is unparalleled.
With the red ball, he has been excellent. But with the pink ball, he’s unstoppable.
In day-night Tests, he has taken 61 wickets at 18.16 — nobody else has managed more than 38 scalps.
“The way Mitchell Starc is bowling at the moment is absolutely world class and I admire so much about him. He’s an elite athlete. An elite professional,” former Australian coach Justin Langer said on Channel 7 last week.
“The other thing about Mitchell Starc, he’s often been the subject of criticism for the way he’s bowled or his body language.
“He might not smile much, he’s a warrior on the field, but he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life.
“The other thing, is he loves playing Test cricket. An example of that, is that he hasn’t been to the IPL because he wants to make sure his body is in the best shape possible to play cricket for Australia.
“I really admire that. I admire everyone who goes and takes their career into their own hands.
“He has certainly done that. He is a ripper.”
Three monumental challenges await Mitchell Starc over the coming eight months, the first being Australia’s upcoming Test tour of India.
The left-armer has travelled to India twice before, but noticeably struggled on the dusty sub-continent wickets — in four Tests, he has taken just seven wickets at 50.14.
Starc will be determined to rectify these numbers and help reclaim the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy, a feat Australia has not achieved in India since 2004.
Then, the World Test Championship Final at Lord’s, which Australia will almost certainly take part in.
With a World Cup and T20 World Cup winner’s medal already in his trophy cabinet, Starc could feasibly become one of the first cricketers to win all three tournaments next winter.
And finally, the Ashes.
Starc was sidelined for four of the five Ashes Tests in 2019, with national selectors prioritising the nibble and consistency of Siddle.
Scott Boland and Michael Neser will undeniably be a threat with the Dukes ball as well, but Starc will be chomping at the bit to work his magic in English conditions.
Ben Stokes says he is "definitely on course" to bowl in the first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston.The England captain did not bowl in England's 10-wic
Ahead of the ICC World Test Championship between Australia and India at The Oval, Australian stars were given a task of describing Star India batter Virat Kohli
LONDON (Reuters) -Seamer Josh Tongue took five wickets to help England thrash Ireland by 10 wickets in the one-off test at Lord’s on Saturday ahead of the As
Josh Tongue took a five-wicket haul on Test debut as the hosts romped home to an easy win against a spirited Ireland side on Day 3 of the one-off Test match at