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Glad I gave up ‘keeping: Starc

Sixers pacer talks about his career-defining role switch and more

Mitchell Starc, who has been leading the Sydney Sixers’ pace attack with success in the ongoing CLT20 2012, was a wicketkeeper when he first started playing cricket. His height, which is one of his biggest assets while charging in against batsmen, was a deterrent when it came to ‘keeping and made him switch roles.

While speaking to clt20.com, Starc said, “Growing up I was a wicketkeeper so there wasn’t too much fast bowling watching. But as I started moving towards bowling I started watching bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Wasim Akram obviously and some of those guys have done it all before and done it well for their country.”

“I have got height so I am little bit too tall for ‘keeping. I think it was Under-16 when I started really focusing on bowling and trying to work out how I was going to go about my bowling and that sort of thing. I just try to keep everything natural and had a lot of help around me to get to where I am today. So that’s a good change in the end; so I am glad I could glad I gave the gloves up.”

However, like the bowler, Australian cricket and the followers of the game too are glad that he switched to bowling; the batsmen, obviously, aren’t too happy with Starc’s role switch. The 22-year-old is one of the most potent weapons for his team and when he joins forces with his friend Josh Hazlewood and young Pat Cummins, the trio are set to rip apart most opposition line-ups. The trio’s exploits have been one of the key factors in the Sixers’ success in the competition. In an interview with clt20.com Starc spoke about his bowling and the how the trio complement each other. 

Excerpts from the interaction with Starc ahead of the final:

What is the key for a bowler while bowling to aggressive batsman with the new ball?

In Twenty20 cricket the batsmen obviously come and try to hit a six off every ball. So as a bowler you have to go in with a clear game plan and clear mindset and know what to do and go out and execute. In Sydney Sixers we have got a good bowling attack. Josh Hazlewood has been amazing for us. He has probably gone for only [about] four-and-half runs an over, so he has been setting us up in a way, but not got the rewards quite yet with the wickets. But he has probably been the best bowler that we had in the tournament. I have been lucky in the sense that I have taken a few wickets. With the new ball we try and swing the ball and try and to execute to the best of our ability to bowl yorkers or slow balls or variations.

Tell us more about your game plan

I am not going to give too much away. In the first six overs you try and take as many wickets as you can. If you are taking two or three wickets in the first six overs, it puts the batting team on the back foot. So that’s what we are trying to do; try and take wickets early on. We try and attack and we could go for a couple of runs, but if we are taking wickets we are doing our job. Through the middle period you still try and take wickets but probably try and defend a little bit more and restrict the scoring. In the end [of the innings] obviously the batsmen are coming hard so you really have to execute the yorkers or variations to try and stem the scoring and try and take wickets as well.

You have opened the bowling with different bowlers in the tournament. Was the strategy to bring in a surprise element like your captain has talked about before?

In Twenty20 cricket you can’t be predictable, so I think we have done it really well. Brad [Haddin] has really used the bowlers well throughout the tournament. Some teams go with one game plan and you can predict what they are going to do and who is going to bowl when. I think that is what we have done well, is kept the opposition guessing. We have got bowlers who can bowl anywhere in the innings so that is a real plus for us.

What has it been like opening with Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Steve O’Keefe?

It is really not that different. The bowlers have only got 24 balls so you really have to have a clear mindset and go and execute your plans. We are all comfortable together and all are great mates, so we get along well and we are performing well so it’s been good.

Earlier in the year you sought Wasim Akram’s advice. How has that helped you?

I didn’t have too much time with him but the time that I had with him was invaluable. To listen to a left-arm legend, who has done it all before and has still got it as well, is helpful. We spoke about little things that change in my game; they really helped me. I caught up with him after our trial game here in Jo’burg when he was here with the Kolkata Knight Riders. I just had a little chat with him about small things here and there and just a reminder of little things to pick up and keep working on. So it’s been good. But I think for me playing lot of cricket back-to-back and bowling a lot has helped.

He spoke mainly about my wrist position and to make sure that I am not too rigid and just working on those little things. He also spoke a little bit about trying to get the one that swings the other way and that’s something that I am still working on and haven’t got it quite right. But hopefully I will get it right down the line. But I will keep chatting with him whenever I get a chance, and it’s going to be great for me.

How do you work on blending pace and swing?

I have been working on my wrist for a long time to get that swing right and get the seam position right. So it is nice to see it come off little bit more consistently now and I think pace is just one of those things that you either have or you don’t. We have Pat Cummins who bowls at 150kph and he is only 19 years old. I am not quite that fast, but if I can keep trying and swinging that ball in 140s, I will be happy with that.

Tell us about the advantages that height affords you?

Definitely, it is an advantage. With that extra bit of height you got that bounce. So like I said, Josh is nice and tall, he gets that extra bounce and movement off the seam.

Tell us about your strengths?

I have got a bit of height about me so I can get a bit of bounce and I try and swing the ball as much as I can when I start with the new one. So hopefully I keep swinging it with a bit of pace and generate a little bit of bounce and take a few little things off each other.

You and Cummins are regarded as the next bowling pair that could help win the Ashes

I am not thinking too much about that. I am just playing my cricket at the moment through Dubai against Pakistan and then the ICC World T20 and now here in the CLT20.

Tomorrow we are fighting in the finals, so if tomorrow I can do my best that will help the Sixers get a win in that final; and then I will go back to shield cricket. I am not looking too far ahead. We have got the whole Australian summer before the Ashes.

Do Cummins and you hunt in a pair?

We have got Josh Hazlewood in as well, so the three of us complement each other nicely. Josh who is nice and tall gets a bit of bounce and movement off the seam, Patty bowls at 150kph and swings the ball both ways and I come with my left-armers and come in and get a bit of swing and a bit of bounce. I think we complement each other nicely as a trio and throw in a couple of spinners and some medium pacers and we have a pretty strong bowling attack. Josh isn’t too far from Australian selection as well so hopefully we can see the three of us in Australian colours one day.

I have played a lot with Josh through underage cricket and a little bit for underage Australian cricket and for New South Wales as well. I haven’t played as much with Patty, but the three of us are finally getting some games together so I am enjoying it. We are all young and just enjoying playing our cricket together as well.

Do you fancy yourself with the bat given that situations like the one yesterday against Titans could arise?

I do like to work a bit on my batting. It will be fair to say that I am a lot more comfortable in the longer formats with the bat. I will probably leave the tail-end batting to Patty like the other night. I am happy to contribute where I need to but I definitely enjoyed batting in the longer format as opposed to the Twenty20 format. 

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