Three doesn’t go into three: Why Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins can’t play all formats

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    While Australia have struggled this past month in the absence of their best quicks, it may have helped them build crucial pace depth, with Pat Cummins now questioning whether the ‘Big Three’ can play in all formats.

    The Aussies clearly cannot afford to play star quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins in all of Tests, ODIs and T20s.

    Those three bowlers missed both of Australia’s tours in the past month due to injury, with the Aussies losing all six of their matches in England, and then winning three of five T20 matches in the tri-series in Zimbabwe.

    Right now, that trio’s focus should be on becoming the world’s best Test pace attack, with white ball cricket a lesser priority.

    The best-case scenario is that, if they are managed well, the trio could play Tests, plus one of the two shorter formats. That would mean that Australia could field two at any one time in an ODI series, and one of them in a T20 series.

    An ODI pace attack of Hazlewood, Cummins and Billy Stanlake would still be potent, as would a T20 combination of Starc, Stanlake and Andrew Tye.


    Josh Hazelwood and Mitchell Starc (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    The exception to this careful workload management could come during a major global tournament, like next year’s World Cup or the World T20 the year after. On a risk-reward basis, it would be worth playing all three quicks in the World Cup, and Starc and Cummins in the World T20.

    In between these tournaments, however, Australia will need to be mindful of offering the three as much rest as possible.

    We have seen in the past month how vulnerable Australia are in ODIs without any of that trio on the field. Now imagine if their concurrent injuries had come about at the time of a major Test series, like next year’s Ashes in England. That would be a disaster.

    An insightful article on Monday by ESPNcricinfo’s Daniel Brettig showed Cummins and Hazlewood have bowled the second and third most overs, across all formats, of any quicks in world cricket since the start of 2017.

    Only South African superstar Kagiso Rabada, with a mammoth 803.5 overs, has had a heavier workload than Cummins (670.3 overs), and Hazlewood (650.4 overs).

    Cummins suggested in the article that it may be too difficult for any of the Australian quicks to play all three formats:

    “I’d love to play every single game for Australia, but realistically I think you get up for the Test matches and then make sure you’re 100 per cent for the ODIs and then taking one series at a time,” Cummins said.

    “You’re making sure you’re 100 per cent right to go but knowing if you’re not, it’s not worth it. There’s so much other cricket and so many other guys that are banging down the door, you can’t play unless you’re 100 per cent right to go.”

    In the absence of the Big Three, Australia fielded a very green pace unit across the past month. Not only were they without Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins but also quicks with international success behind them like James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter-Nile.

    This left the pace unit far too inexperienced and the rawness was brutally exposed at various stages.

    The flipside is that, putting poor results aside, young pacemen with obvious potential – like 23-year-old Stanlake and 21-year-old Jhye Richardson – got valuable games.

    Billy Stanlake of Australia celebrates

    Billy Stanlake (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright

    Both showed glimpses of rare talent in England and Zimbabwe, but lack the consistency and confidence in one’s skills that comes with experience.

    By the time of the World T20, both Stanlake and Richardson may well be world-class short-form bowlers. If they are, then the tough times they’ve been through in the past month will surely have helped lay the foundation for that success.

    To handle the rigours of modern-day, three-format cricket, Australia need to build a battery of at least seven to eight pace bowlers capable of stepping into international cricket at a moment’s notice. Faulkner should be brought back into the fold as soon as possible in white-ball cricket, offering not just great international experience but also left-arm variety and depth in batting.

    His solid ODI bowling record (96 wickets at 30) and excellent international T20 record (36 wickets at 19) can’t be ignored at a time when Australia badly need experienced limited-overs quicks to complement rookies like Stanlake and Richardson.

    A seven-man pace group of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, Faulkner, Stanlake, Tye and Richardson, if juggled skilfully, should hold Australia in good stead across all three formats.

    There’s plenty more pace talent outside of that group, too. Victorian quick Chris Tremain is arguably the best bowler yet to play a Test for Australia and Jackson Bird is a reliable Test option.

    Meanwhile, if their bodies can hold up, the likes of Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson, Jason Behrendorff and Joel Paris all have huge ability.

    Above all, however, Australia must make the best possible use of their single biggest asset – the Big Three. That means protecting them.

    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 (25)

    • July 11th 2018 @ 4:33am
      Roy said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:33am | ! Report

      Again with the push for Faulkner, agreed he was good a few years back but what has he done in the last year to warrant a comeback, and how would you have starc miss one day games just to manage his work load, he is the best in the world in this. At least you went one article without talking up finch 🙂

      • July 11th 2018 @ 8:48am
        Krishna Singh said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        haha ronan love finch 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2018 @ 10:13am
        JamesH said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        I’d like to see Faulkner perform well in the JLT Cup and BBL this summer before he is recalled, but he shouldn’t be written off. He’s still only 28.

        Starc’s recent form in ODIs has fallen away too, probably because he has been carrying injuries. Since the end of the Pakistan series early in 2017 he has only managed 9 matches, taking 16 wickets at 32 with an economy of 5.9. Not awful, but far more modest than his overall record. His standout performance in that period was against Bangladesh, too (4/29).

        The reality is that Starc’s body isn’t coping with the workload of playing both tests and ODIs. If he keeps playing both then it will shorten his career and he will miss matches through injury. The smart solution is to drop ODIs from his repertoire after the World Cup.

        • July 11th 2018 @ 11:42am
          Paul said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          James, I think the smart move is to decide which tournaments/games players should play and which ones they don’t.

          Your comment about dropping ODI’s from Starc’s game roster after the WC makes sense, but only for a period of time. If he’s still fit and bowling well, I’d like to see him in the Champions Cup (assuming that tournament still exists) and for the WC in 2023(?). Ditto with T20s.

          • Roar Guru

            July 11th 2018 @ 1:54pm
            JamesH said | July 11th 2018 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

            The problem there is that you don’t get any continuity because the group changes constantly within the same format. Makes it tough to develop a winning outfit.

    • July 11th 2018 @ 8:28am
      Paul said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Ronan’s focus in this piece is only on the quicks, but we need to also consider when to play two spinners, which batsmen to use against which sides etc.

      Steve Smith showed last season what can happen to a batsman when they are completely focused on Ashes Tests – his and captaincy and batting in the following ODI series were way below par and he admitted afterwards he was exhausted, so it’s not only the quicks who may need a rest.

      Agreed Faulkner would be a great addition to the squad but there’s a reason he’s not being picked now – he’s desperately out of form. Get him back to where he was a few seasons ago and he could take Maxwell’s place and win a few games for Australia, either with his at the death bowling or hitting.

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2018 @ 8:29am
      DingoGray said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      I tend to agree.

      Hazelwood to me is the Grunt man and should not be anywhere near t20 Cricket.

      Test Cricket and One Dayers (managed work load)

      Cummins and Starc I think should still be used through the three formats but again manage work load. Ideally in one dayer which the emergence of Stanlake you would only ever have two of those three together on a tour.

      • July 11th 2018 @ 8:52am
        Krishna Singh said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        These much better suggestion then ronan, hazelwood for test, starc and cumm for all 3 format with stanlake providing relief

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 10:17am
          JamesH said | July 11th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          That doesn’t solve anything. Starc and (to a lesser extent) Cummins aren’t coping with the rigours of playing all three formats. Starc in particular needs to be managed or we will lose him for tests.

    • July 11th 2018 @ 11:29am
      Sportstragic said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      Good article Ronan. Does anyone have any info on how James Pattinson is going these days? Geez he had some talent! He has been overtaken by a few bowlers now though.
      I agree that Faulkner should be bought back in by he needs to be in form. He was bowling real poor there for s stage.

      • Columnist

        July 12th 2018 @ 12:27am
        Ronan O'Connell said | July 12th 2018 @ 12:27am | ! Report

        Cheers Sportstragic, last I heard Pattinson was targeting a comeback in the domestic 50-over comp which starts in just over 2 months from now.

        Here’s hoping his body finally holds together, he’s a freakish talent.

    • July 11th 2018 @ 11:57am
      Tanmoy Kar said | July 11th 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      The big three, Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood should play only Test matches against Strong Opponents like England, India, South Africa, Pakistan and may be West Indies. Other bowlers should fulfil the ODI and T20I obligations. Big three may play World Cup or important Series depending on their fitness then and rest they got prior to that Series.

    • Roar Pro

      July 11th 2018 @ 12:34pm
      mrrexdog said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      Hazlewood doesn’t play T20s anyway. Even when he’s been fit they’ve left him out of the squad.

      Before he got injured Hazlewood was picked in the squad for the ODIs in England but not for the T20 matches.

      Same thing happened with last years ODI/T20 tour of India. Hazlewood was picked in the ODI squad but not the T20 one, before being ruled out with injury. While Pat Cummins was picked in both squads.

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