One of the fastest left-arm pacers in the current generation, Mitchell Starc forms an integral member of the much-vaunted Aussie pace trio in Test cricket. His presence indeed adds variety to the bowling attack, who swings the bowl both ways at a brisk pace and is efficient in nailing inch-perfect yorkers. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at his best in the recently concluded Test series against India, leaking plenty of runs at his end. The pressure that was applied by the other 2 pacers proved futile as Starc wasn’t able to execute the ideal lines and lengths and thus, marked easy pickings for the batsmen.
Oppositions, who were once terrified by the mere prospect of facing him, now fancy their chances against him and know they can make up for the slow start by attacking an out of sorts Starc. His dismal show in the series was one of the major reason for Australia to end on the other side of the line. Inspite of all this, the selectors have yet again shown their faith on Starc and picked him in the Test squad to tour South Africa in February. Thus said, the team management might have already started looking for some other options, who could replace him if the below-par show continues. In the below piece, we look at 5 such bowlers, who could replace Starc from Australian Test set-up:
1. Michael Neser
This bowling all-rounder from Queensland was part of the squad, who played India in the recently concluded series. He didn’t get his requisite go this time around but would have done exceptionally well had he made the cut.
Neser is a completely different bowler to Starc, who doesn’t possess the express pace which the latter is known for. Despite the limitation, Neser manages to hold one end up, bowling testing lines and lengths and compelling the batsmen into making mistakes.
His lower-order batting is a bonus and this depleted Australian team can surely benefit from his esteemed presence, who brings his distinct flair along with him. Neser has picked 195 wickets from 59 first-class games at an average of 25.47, and also struck 1936 runs at an average of 25.47 and the best score of 121.
2. Sean Abbott
Abbott is another talented cricketer from New South Wales, who has plenty of domestic experience under his belt. The right-armer has worked on his game throughout his long cricketing career and is now well-prepared to climb the big ladder for Australia.
Given his experience and recent performances, he was picked in the Australian squad for all the 3 formats against India which itself was a huge indication of his calibre and temperament to play at the highest level.
His street smart batting and sharp reflexes in the field does help, which provides Australia with an immaculate three-dimensional option. Abbott has picked 160 wickets from 58 first-class games at an average of 32.53 and economy rate of 3.14 while smashing 1544 runs with the bat at an average of 20.86.
3. Jason Behrendorff
Being a left-arm pacer himself, Behrendorff is the ideal like-for-like replacement for Starc. Just like the latter, Behrendorff, too, can swing the ball at a good pace and given his height, extracts steep bounce off the surface.
The bowler, unfortunately, isn’t known for his work with the bat but covers that up pretty well by picking wickets in heap. Once on the song, it is very difficult to stop Behrendorff, who has the ability to pitch the ball in such areas which the batsmen don’t like facing.
A prolonged back problem had kept him out of action for quite some time and even the selectors won’t risk it by rushing him into Test match cricket. He will certainly be in the mix at some point in his career and that will mark the beginning of a dream phase for him. The bowler has scalped 126 wickets from 31 first-class games at an average of 23.85 and economy rate of 3.14.
4. Mark Steketee
A rising cricketer in the Australian domestic circuit, Steketee is looked upon as the bright future of Aussie cricket. The tall bowler has pace, swing and can extract seam movement, an aspect most needed to succeed at the international level.
As is the case with every other fast bowler, Steketee too can go for runs in the process of executing his ideal lines and lengths but the eventual result is a sweet one which is the most encouraging aspect from Australia’s perspective.
He was chosen in the squad to tour of South Africa which is abandoned by the rising COVID numbers in South Africa. Steketee has galloped 144 wickets from 42 first-class games at an average of 26.77 and economy rate of 2.94.
5. Jhye Richardson
The leading wicket-taker at this year’s BBL, Richardson is relishing a dream phase in his cricketing career. The pacer has picked 27 wickets from 15 games at an economy rate of 7.23 and average of 14.60 at BBL 10.
The bowler, too, was making his comeback after a dislocated shoulder ruled him out of action for a brief period. His return as could be seen from the numbers is a fabulous one, who is troubling batsmen with his fast arm action and a brisk pace.
The batters are hardly bestowed any time to make a move, either front or back and that’s where he gets the better of most of them. He has already played 2 Tests for Australia, picking 6 wickets at an average of 20.50 and economy rate of 2.41 and with him being at the top of his game, this is the right time to redraft him into the Test side and witness his magic unfold.