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Mitchell Starc & the zest for Test cricket

South Africa tour of Australia, Tests, 2022: Mitchell Starc becomes 7th Australia player to take 300+ Test wickets.

South Africa tour of Australia, Tests, 2022: Mitchell Starc becomes 7th Australia player to take 300+ Test wickets. _ Walking wicket (Source_ ©AFP_Getty Images)
Starc becomes 7th Aus player to take 300+ Test wickets (Source: ©AFP/Getty Images)

In this day and age, with rich cash-filled domestic leagues, some players refuse to accept large pay cheques and would rather play for their respective countries. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mitchell Starc belong to that rare breed of cricketers and have been the golden outliers to the norm of most players who end up chasing fame, rather than focus on their primary duty of performing for their country.


Starc becomes 7th Australian bowler to take 300+ Test wickets


Bowler

Span

Mat

Inns

Balls

Runs

Wkts

Ave

Eco

SR

Shane Warne

1992-2007

145

273

40705

17995

708

25.41

2.65

57.4

Glenn McGrath

1993-2007

124

243

29248

12186

563

21.64

2.49

51.9

Nathan Lyon

2011-2022

113

213

29236

14332

454

31.56

2.94

64.3

Dennis Lillee

1971-1984

70

132

18467

8493

355

23.92

2.75

52

Mitchell Johnson

2007-2015

73

140

160001

8891

313

28.4

3.33

51.1

Brett Lee

1999-2008

76

150

16531

9554

310

30.81

3.46

53.3

Mitchell Starc

2011-2022

74

142

14917

8189

301

27.2

3.29

49.5

Mitchell Starc became a member of the elite club of 300+ Test wicket-takers on Sunday, December 18, when he cleaned up South Africa batter Rassie van der Dussen for a four-ball duck at the Gabba. The 32-year-old veteran pacer became the seventh Australian bowler to achieve this milestone. Starc went on to add one more wicket, dismissing Keshav Maharaj, before Australia wrapped up the first Test on the second day.


With this wicket, Starc has now joined the likes of Australian greats Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Dennis Lillee, Nathan Lyon, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in taking 300-plus Test wickets for Australia. "It is pretty cool," Cameron Green said that the ball that got the wicket was better than the one where he dropped the catch.


“It is cool and prestigious. I might reflect when all is done and dusted," Starc said after the match.


When asked what has helped his bowling, Starc praised his teammates. "(Scott) Boland's come in and been unbelievable. Josh's (Hazlewood) been great. We've balanced each other out and know how to bring out the best in each other."


Australia restricted South Africa to 152 after opting to bowl, thanks to the tenacity of the great Australian bowling line-up. In reply to this mediocre total on a tough batting wicket, Travis Head's 92 lifted Australia to post 218 in their first innings. On Day 2, Australia astonishingly bundled out South Africa for just 99 runs on the board. The hosts, who needed only 34 runs to win, fumbled a bit before securing a six-wicket victory to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, courtesy of 19 extras provided by the visiting nation.


Australia’s Test team captain Pat Cummins lauded Starc's achievement, saying, "He keeps impressing. The longevity to take 300 (wickets) and play for ten years is great; he keeps going to a different level. Around the wicket, nipping the ball away is a new skill. He is a huge member of our team, and he continues to get better."


"It was nice to pull a nice ball out. I said to Patty [Cummins], I felt like I could get him that way, the way he's set up. I'll definitely take that as a nice ball to bring it up with. It's something to be proud of. It's something I will reflect on later. I'm just glad to have a good Test match win," Starc said.


"I'm not sure I'd get one wicket, let alone 300," Starc had said in the lead-up to the Gabba Test. "It's been an interesting but very enjoyable journey. Hopefully, there's a bit more left in it," he added.


South Africa tour of Australia, Tests, 2022_ Mitchell Starc becomes 7th Australia player to take 300+ Test wickets. _ Walking wicket (Source_ ©AFP_Getty Images)
Starc joins the elite club of 300+ Test wicket takers (Source: ©AFP/Getty Images)

The formula for Starc's longevity

We have seen for several years now that the players who have gone on to become the best in the business have prioritised one of the three formats. Be it James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Hardik Pandya or Mitchell Starc. All of the above-mentioned players have sacrificed one of the formats in order to have an elongated career for their respective national teams.


Starc last played an Indian Premier League (IPL) game seven years ago with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), where he had an ever so impressive outing, picking up 20 wickets in 13 matches with an astonishing strike rate of 12.90 (22.73 percent) of the team's total wickets. Following that season, Starc opted out of any domestic T20 league in order to focus on his fitness in order to extend his Test career for Australia.


In this day and age beset by cash-filled domestic leagues, such cricketers who sacrifice money for the sake of their country have become as rare as a geminid meteor, which occurs once in a generation, or are seen in the cricketing constellation like Halley’s comet which are observed once in every 75-80 years.


South Africa tour of Australia, Tests, 2022_ Mitchell Starc becomes 7th Australia player to take 300+ Test wickets. _ Walking wicket (Source_ ©Getty Images)
Mitchell Starc (Source: ©Getty Images)

By the numbers - Mitchell Starc – Pre 2015 vs Post 2015

In red-ball cricket, Mitchell Starc made his debut in 2011, and until the end of 2015 he played 25 matches for Australia, where he picked 91 wickets in total at a 53+ strike rate. But Starc was a different beast after the 2015 IPL drama, taking 210 wickets at a much-improved strike rate of under-48 in 49 international Test matches since then, excluding the ongoing Melbourne Test between Australia and South Africa.


This shift in focus aided Starc's achievement of 300 Test wickets for Australia, making him only the seventh player after Shane Warne, Glenn Mcgrath, Nathan Lyon, Dennis Lillee, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee, in that order. Starc also became the fifth Australian fast bowler to achieve this feat. For those interested in cricket trivia, Starc has the best strike rate (49.5) among the members of the esteemed club of 300+ Test wicket-takers from Australia.


While it takes a lot to deny the money that comes as a package with franchise league deals, it is inarguably the zest to play long enough for your nation that separates the likes of Starc, Anderson and Broad from the rest of the bowlers. Though Starc is 32 years old, another world cup is just around the corner for the left-arm quick, and he would be certain of making it into the playing eleven by proving his fitness and match-preparedness before anything else. Knowing Starc and his love for Australian cricket, the left arm pacer would be ready to steam in a banana in-swinger from good length to dislodge the batters. Just typical, Vintage Mitchell Starc.


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