There is one question on everyone’s lips leading into Thursday’s trans-Tasman opener: can Australia register a win for the good guys by overcoming the Black Caps?
At the 2015 World Cup Mitchell Starc was outstanding, and after the final he was announced as the player of the tournament, a fitting reward at the conclusion of six weeks of superb fast bowling. He was a player right at the top of his game.
His 2-47 against England in the first match wasn’t spectacular, but everything after it was. In the second match he almost took Australia to victory with 6-28 against New Zealand while defending a small total. Starc consistently made inroads into opposition batting orders and not once failed to at least take a brace of wickets in whatever match he played.
His 2-28 off 8.5 overs against India in the semi-final was economical and effective, and a few people still argue that his wicket of Brendon McCullum off the third ball in the final was when the final ended.
Australia had a superb left-arm fast bowler who could bowl at good pace and with the occasional accurate yorker to dismiss any batsman not completely on top of their game.
Australia had the best one-day bowlers in the world bowling for them.
Now we fast forward to the weeks before the 2019 World Cup, which gives us the opportunity to reflect on what’s happened over the last four years since the previous instalment of cricket’s biggest competition.
Instead of focusing on all four years, we can hone in on the last two, since the Champions Trophy was played during the English summer of 2017. Since that tournament, Mitchell Starc has only played seven one-day matches for Australia. These have been his returns:
The last two years Starc’s 11 wickets at 37.36, all on home soil, haven’t been at the standard he would expect from himself. It’s been a long way off what he was producing at his peak in one-day cricket.
It’s hard to pinpoint reasons Mitchell Starc hasn’t been firing on all cylinders. Peaking for a World Cup, which can certainly be argued carries more weight than a bilateral series, could be one. The amount of management that goes into looking after fast bowlers in the modern day could be another. Playing only seven matches in two years suggests he is being looked after at a great extent by the coaching staff.
So, coming back to the present, we’re left with a question for the future: can the player who was outstanding for Australia when they won the previous tournament find his feet again and be a force in this World Cup?
Can a player who has statistically been down on form for a few years now be the spearhead his country would love him to be for the nine and potentially 11 matches in June and July in England?
A look at Starc’s record in England isn’t overly flattering. If you take out the 4-29 against Bangladesh at the Champions Trophy tournament two years ago, he has seven wickets at 56 in his other seven matches – not the types of returns that will instil Justin Langer and Aaron Finch with too much confidence.
Can Mitchell Starc combine with his other pacemen to deliver the goods once again in a big tournament for Australia?
We’re about to find out.