Australia’s greatest left-arm fast bowler Alan Davidson was adamant Mitchell Starc, who was named the best player of the recent World Cup, could be as damaging at Test level if he could get his head around one simple fact.
Davidson, 85, took 186 Test wickets in his 44 Tests between 1953 and 1963, and was described by Cricket NSW chief executive Andrew Jones at Thursday’s Steve Waugh Medal ceremony as being “Mitchell Starc before Mitchell Starc was Mitchell Starc”. He also has monitored Starc’s progress since he joined the Western Suburbs club as a teenager with aspirations to become a wicketkeeper.
While he celebrated Starc’s being named the world’s No.1 one-day bowler after his 22 wicket haul at 10.18 during Australia’s World Cup triumph, Davidson said he would be unstoppable at Test level once he appreciated there was no difference between a white and red ball.
“Mitchell is learning line and length is everything and he’s also bowling full,” said Davidson. “People ask what’s he need to do to take his one-day form into the Test format and my answer is nothing, really. The ball is just a different colour.
“I know he prefers to bowl with a white ball, but I’ve said to Mitchell on numerous occasions it’s the same size, the same weight; it’s only a different coat of paint. He’s a bowler who is six feet six [1.97m], he has a nice rhythm, a good action so there’s no reason why he can’t continue.”
Davidson said Starc’s Test performances would benefit from regular selection in Michael Clarke’s team. He has been in and out of the Test team and while ranked Test cricket’s No.31 bowler Davidson drew on his own experiences to explain why Starc needed a chance.
“We haven’t seen the best of him, he’s a work in progression,” he said. “I go back to my own career, I played in 13 Tests from 1953-57 where I was in and out and you don’t know where you stand, but all of a sudden you get the new ball, you’re not bowling at No.3, 4 or 5 and things change.
“It’s important to know you’re there because you should be. The confidence he’d get from the new ball would give him a lift. Mitchell has shown the consistency [in the shorter-form] to suggest he’ll be as important, and good, for Australia in Tests.”
Nathan Bracken, regarded as the world’s best one-day bowler before he retired in 2010, said his own career of 116 one-day internationals compared with five Tests, indicated for one reason or another some bowlers are not seen to take their form from one format over to the other.
“I think it’s the way the game is structured,” Bracken said. “In one-dayers there’s certain type of batsmen who are more aggressive at times and they’ll play more shots and there’s times when, as a bowler, you’ll be more aggressive and you either bowl to contain or get wickets.
“In Test cricket the batsmen are more aware you’re trying to bowl that one-off, wicket-taking ball that Mitchell Starc is definitely capable of.
“In one-day cricket the batsmen tend to change the strike over, so they’re looking to be more aggressive, they come forward, hit balls into gaps, whereas in Test cricket they’ll sit on you and be patient.”
Bracken agreed with Davidson’s assertion that Starc possessed the tools, the temperament and skills to be a force in the Test arena.
“Of course he can,” said Bracken. “But I think it is important Mitch gets opportunities. The great thing is he’s doing what he is at 25 so that means he has time for the selectors to give him a chance to prove himself and establish himself at Test level.”
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