Height, pace, and raw talent: Billy Stanlake is a potential superstar

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Like Australian superstar Mitchell Starc, towering paceman Billy Stanlake is a truly rare cricketing commodity.

    At 204cm, Australia’s latest ODI player is the tallest paceman ever to play for Australia, eclipsing the likes of former ODI cricketer Brett Dorey (203cm), one-Test-wonder Peter George (203cm), supremely gifted left-armer Bruce Reid (203cm), and Western Australia champion Jo Angel (200cm).

    Stanlake has one major advantage over all those fellow two-metre beanpoles – he has express pace.

    Dorey relied on lovely outswing, George was a back-of-a-length seamer, Reid exploited his angle across right handers, and Angel unsettled batsmen with his steepling bounce.

    But none of them were capable of consistently operating well above 140kmh, so they lacked the intimidation factor owned by Stanlake, who can hit 150kmh and has been regularly exceeding 145kmh in the Big Bash League.

    Most of the two-metre-plus quicks we’ve seen in international cricket did not have worrying pace.

    West Indian legend Joel Garner (203cm) had a lethal bouncer and an even better yorker, but didn’t have the same scorching speed as contemporaries Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts or Jeff Thomson.

    England giants Boyd Rankin (203cm), Chris Tremlett (201cm) and Steven Finn (201cm) have toured Australia as part of the past two Ashes. Rankin and Tremlett operated mainly in the mid-to-high 130kmh range. Finn had startling pace early in his career, but lost it as a result of tinkering with his approach, and these days he is merely sharp, rather than express, except for the odd day when everything clicks and he sits in the mid-140s.

    West Indian captain Jason Holder (201cm) is gentle in pace despite his soaring frame, often operating in the low-130s.

    The only bowler who has the same terrifying combination of extreme height and raw pace as Stanlake is the man who was just withdrawn from the upcoming ODI series – Pakistan’s 216cm freak Mohammad Irfan. Like Stanlake, Irfan can nudge 150kmh. He is even more unusual than the Australian due to his truly incredible height and left-arm angle.

    Unlike Stanlake, 34-year-old Irfan came to cricket very late. He was already 27 years old when he played his first professional game. Stanlake had only just turned 21 when he earned his first-class debut for Queensland and now is about to enter international cricket aged just 22.

    The last time a bowler with such unique attributes debuted for Australia was back in 2010, when Starc played his first ODI in India. Starc has used his rare skills to become the world’s best limited-overs bowler and among the elite players in the Test format.

    Australian bowler Mitchell Starc with the pink ball

    When Starc arrived on the domestic scene, he showed himself to be a one-of-a-kind – there was no other bowler like him in world cricket. A 196cm left-armer who was a natural swing bowler at up to 150kmh. It was a freakish package.

    The closest bowler in style to Starc was Mitchell Johnson, yet Johnson was significantly shorter and had a much lower, slingier action, which did not allow the consistent swing or sharp lift the younger man earned.

    Stanlake is fortunate enough to have a similar shock factor to Starc.

    As his Queensland colleague and soon-to-be ODI teammate Usman Khawaja explained this week, Stanlake’s bowling is “very ugly to face”.

    “He’s a tall bloke, bowls fast, hits the bat hard and he’s very ugly to face,” Khawaja told the media.

    “The selectors think he’s ready and I’m sure that he is and if he gets a chance he’ll do really well. He’s very tall and very fast, and that’s two commodities you don’t get together a lot of times. Either you bowl fast and you’re not as tall, or you’re tall and you’re not as fast. But he can do both which is quite impressive.”

    The element of surprise Stanlake possesses thanks to his height and pace will only take him so far, of course. Batsmen will grow more accustomed to his unusual release point and sharp bounce. He’ll need other skills to consistently trouble international batsmen.

    Stanlake has shown though, that he doesn’t rely on his speed and lift. He’s not a Shaun Tait-style spray-and-pray express quick. In all three formats, Stanlake has display impressive accuracy and the nous to vary his angles on the crease.

    He is, of course, still extremely green, having played just two first-class matches (seven wickets at 21), four List A matches (seven wickets at 25) and seven T20s (eight wickets at 23). His enormous frame will also likely make him more susceptible to injury, particularly at this age while his body is still filling out.

    Australia have such a quality battery of ODI quicks – Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner and John Hastings – that Stanlake is unlikely to become a regular in the team at this stage. Big Billy will, however, add some genuine excitement and intrigue to the five-match series against Pakistan starting tomorrow.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • January 12th 2017 @ 4:24am
      jarijari said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:24am | ! Report

      Bit early but we all hope you’re right.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am
        Nudge said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

        It certainly is early but justified in my opinion. This guy is going to be a freak. Anyone standing that tall with that pace and accuracy is going to be some kind of bowler.
        Potentially could have Hazlewood, Starc, Stanlake, Pattinson, and Cummins all up and firing for next summers ashes. Imagine that

        • January 12th 2017 @ 12:24pm
          James Jackson said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Joel Paris isn’t half bad either!

          • Columnist

            January 12th 2017 @ 12:44pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

            And don’t forget Behrendorff. I still reckon he and Sayers are the two best red ball bowlers yet to play Tests.

            • January 12th 2017 @ 3:06pm
              Don Freo said | January 12th 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

              I think Paris is the best of them all.

              The other Jo Angel type is Simon Makin whose return to Shield cricket has been fantastic. It really annoys me that Makin is available for the Scorchers and they brought in such a has been as Tim Bresnan.

              • Columnist

                January 12th 2017 @ 5:21pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

                The Scorchers have been obsessed with recruiting current/former England internationals – Bell, Willey, Bresnan, Collingwood, Carberry.

                I do wonder if it’s a marketing ploy to appeal to the enormous population of British expats in Perth.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 5:28pm
                Don Freo said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                That can be the only reason. They are our weakest link.

                Geez I get frustrated when Bell and Klinger are batting, burning balls and there is all this firepower behind them. I’m a bit unfair to Klinger but any of the others could do what he does…just faster and better. Johnson hasn’t got to wave the willow, Agar has barely sniffed a bat and no one has seen Richardson…and he can really bat.

                I love Whiteman in the first 3. He can do the Bell role but way faster. He is a natural for Wade’s ODI spot. He has every shot there is.

              • January 12th 2017 @ 5:30pm
                Nudge said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

                Don may have already worked that Ronan as I’m pretty sure he is a Pom. Is that right Don??

              • January 12th 2017 @ 5:40pm
                Don Freo said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

                Wash your mouth out. The whingers barrack for West Coast.

        • January 12th 2017 @ 2:05pm
          jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

          Nudge he gets decent shape too.

          In the ODIs you have Starc, Hazey, Cummins and Stanlake and can rotate them playing 3 at a time. Not sure where that leaves Faulkner who is a good ODI player. He could bat at 7 – surely we can move Handscomb into the ODI keeping role. Marsh or Maxie or Head at 6, Handscomb at 5, Lynn 4 and the top 3 is easy.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 5:01pm
            Nudge said | January 12th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

            It would make for an even better team if Handscomb could take the gloves. The guy looks made for one day cricket

            • January 12th 2017 @ 9:07pm
              jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

              I don’t see why not. He keeps in BBL and appears clearly better than Wade.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Matthew H said | January 12th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      He was bowling wonderful seam on a good line and length the other night for the Strikers.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 8:26am
      spruce moose said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Bit early.

      He may become a Brett Dorey. If that happens, god help us all.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 8:35am
      Nudge said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Dorey bowled at 125. Stanlake is 21, and already consistently bowls 145 plus

      • Columnist

        January 12th 2017 @ 12:19pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        Dorey was a late bloomer like Irfan – didn’t make his debut for WA until he was 27yo and then for Australia at 28yo.

        He was a quality Shield bowler but came to the game a bit late.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 8:36am
      Basil said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Talk and fast… put him on the plane to India!

    • January 12th 2017 @ 9:49am
      Peter Z said | January 12th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Great article Ronan. Love a player profile from you. They’re always well researched. And they make a nice change from the pieces where you look like your trying to start a fight!

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