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29 March 201516:12

Mitchell Starc: Man of the Tournament

The left-arm pacer combined pace with swing to make for a potent combination that went through the defences of most batsmen in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Mitchell Starc: Man of the Tournament - Cricket News

Mitchell Starc was declared Player of the Tournament.

Mitchell Starc entered the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 as one of the potent threats in Australia’s arsenal of pacemen. At the end of the tournament, he had emerged as the spearhead that posed a consistent threat in every single match he bowled in, and the key cog in a wheel that turned with Australia becoming only the second team – after India in 2011 – to be crowned world champions on home soil.

Starc ended the World Cup with 22 wickets at an average of 10.18 and an economy rate of 3.50, bowling with pace, relying on swing, and planning his dismissals with nous.

Starc’s speeds through the tournament were particularly impressive. Whether first up with the new white ball, coming back when Michael Clarke needed a breakthrough, bowling in the Batting Power Play, or stymying runs at the death.

He consistently topped 140 kph, but never lost his radar or his shape. He invariably struck with the new ball, and picked up at least two wickets in every match. Starc’s incisiveness stemmed from being able to execute plans flawlessly. Among the most important wickets he took during the tournament was the one of Brendon McCullum in the final against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Having planned on how to bowl to New Zealand’s captain and most dangerous batsman with Craig McDermott, Australia’s bowling coach, Starc said he was glad it came off. “It was a bit of a planning game with Craig McDermott about just bowling inswing at pace and bowl a yorker to him first up,” said Starc. “I was lucky the third one hit. There's a lot of luck involved, but it’s just nice to see that plan come off.”

It was, in fact, in Australia’s previous encounter with New Zealand, in a thrilling match in the league stages, which New Zealand won by one wicket, that Starc’s skill with the ball came to the fore most spectacularly. Bowled out for 151, Australia appeared headed for defeat when Starc brought them right back into contention with 6 for 28, knocking one pole over after another with his wonderfully accurate inswing at 145 kph and above. New Zealand hung on to win, but it was the performance that was to define Starc’s tournament.

In a tournament in which the batsmen dominated for large parts, Starc’s feat was even more impressive. Two double centuries were scored, more than one team crossed a total of 400 and there were several scores in excess of 300, but whenever Starc came on to bowl, no batsman could relax, or come out on top after an extended battle. Crucially, Starc kept the runs down even on the rare occasions when a wicket wasn’t forthcoming.

Starc’s key assets were inswing to the right-hand batsman at pace. Movement in the air, especially late movement, can trouble the best batsmen, and Starc showed plenty of skill in extracting late swing, the ball often finding its way through bat and pad to rattle timber. It was proficiency honed by diligent work in the nets, a lot of focussed planning, and single-minded dedication to achieving the desired results in the middle. The end result was pace coupled with swing, making for a potent combination that Starc married most effectively. That meant he was both penetrative and accurate.

The culmination was a tournament in which batting line-ups were scythed through, Australia were crowned champions for a record fifth time, and Starc was unanimously adjudged the Man of the Tournament.