January 29, 2015

Wasim Akram says Mitchell Starc is more important to Australia’s World Cup campaign than Mitchell Johnson and has the ability to bowl the country towards a fifth world title. While Starc is yet to prove his wares in the Test arena, there is no doubting his credentials in the 50-over game.

Starc, who turns 25 on Friday, is tracking better than some of Australia’s four greatest one-day international wicket-takers at the corresponding stages of their career. His 61 wickets at 20.62 after 32 games compare favourably to Brett Lee (56 at 24.3), Glenn McGrath (46 at 22.54), Mitchell Johnson (51 at 23.39) and Craig McDermott (40 at 30.85). Starc also boasts more bags of five or more wickets than that World Cup-winning quartet.

Should Starc play for another decade, as Akram expects him to, he is well placed to pass Lee and McGrath, with 380 wickets each, for most wickets by an Australian in the ODI arena. Akram likes what he has seen from Starc during the tri-series, in which the young left-armer has clearly been the star performer with the ball.

With Johnson absent due to hamstring soreness after a heavy workload in the Tests, Starc has become Australia’s unofficial pace bowling spearhead, troubling India and England with his pace and swing.

If Starc can maintain his white hot form throughout the six-week showpiece event, Akram believes he will play a major role in Australia’s quest to win the World Cup on home soil. “He’s got the ability, no doubt about it. He has the ability to make a difference,” Akram said.

“He’s got the pace, he’s got the swing and he’s bowling very intelligently to the new batsmen, especially with the new ball.” Akram is so impressed with Starc that he would pick the rising star ahead of Johnson – not that there are any suggestions Australia would not play both left-arm speed demons when available.

“Mitchell Johnson is one of the top bowlers in the world but having two of them in the same team is a plus. They’re both left-handers, very quick and big lads, and they’re different,” Akram said. “On these wickets they’ll be impossible to play with their pace. If I had to pick one of them for one-dayers with the new ball I’d definitely pick Mitchell Starc.

“I’m seeing it from the captain’s point of view. He’s got the swing with the new ball and he’s got a brilliant yorker but having two of them is unbelievable.” Akram is impressed by Starc’s ability to strike with the new ball and in the closing overs when opposition batsmen swing wildly.

“He’s got the pace, he’s got the swing and he’s bowling very intelligently to the new batsmen, especially with the new ball,” Akram said. “At the death overs he’s bowling around the wicket and bowling the perfect yorkers. It’s very hard to hit a left-hander if you’re bowling well around the wicket.”

Akram’s lavish praise will undoubtedly raise public expectations on Starc but he believed the NSW quick was capable of handling it. “There will be some pressure on him but he should take that pressure with a positive attitude rather than let it get to him. People will expect him to do well because he’s a talented and consistent performer,” Akram said.

Starc is one of four quicks in the Australian squad capable of reaching 150km/h, along with Johnson, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Akram said Shane Warne’s labelling of Starc as “soft” during the Brisbane Test had proven to be a “blessing in disguise”, though those close to the bowler believe his improvement has come from increased match fitness practice rather than any extra motivation from the leg-spin great.

Courtesy: The Sydney Morning Herald

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