Ricky Ponting believes that Mitchell Starc, who disappointed in the India series, only has a few net sessions to prove his worth and believes the Aussies need to drop the left-armer should he not swing the ball during practice. Ponting further expects Matthew Wade to keep his spot in the XI.
Australia’s embarrassing defeat at home to a second-string Indian side has, understandably, left fans and former cricketers disgruntled, and one of the few players who has come under fire has been Mitchell Starc. The left-arm seamer, after starting the series with radiance, waned away with every passing game and eventually was non-existent across the last two Tests, where he finished with combined figures of 3-290. With the Kangaroos scheduled to play three Tests against South Africa next month, Starc is one player who looks almost certain to lose his place.
According to the legendary Ricky Ponting, the onus is now on the left-armer to show his worth. Ponting is of the opinion that Australia need to evaluate in net sessions if Starc is swinging the ball, and do away with the 30-year-old in case his rhythm or wrist position is off.
"We've been talking about how he just didn't swing the ball. He swung the ball beautifully in the first two Tests but didn't swing it after that. That must be a technique thing, whether he was a bit tired or fatigued,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"But if he can do something to prove to … the coaches around the squad that he's swinging that new ball, in South Africa the ball does move and we know how dangerous he is when the ball does swing.
"But we also know that there might be someone better to play if he's not swinging the ball. It's up to him; if he can get some remedial work done to sort his technique out and he starts swinging the ball in the nets, I'd play him for sure."
In the case of Australia dropping Starc, Ponting wants the Kangaroos to field Jhye Richardson, who is currently topping the BBL wicket-takers chart and impressed in his maiden outing in Tests last year before suffering an untimely injury. Though Pattinson might be ahead of Richardson in the pecking order, Ponting believes that the young Western Australian brings to the table a swing-bowling package similar to Starc.
"He's just a quality new-ball bowler," Ponting said of Richardson.
"And if there are question marks around Starc and you need someone to swing that new ball, he fits that mould really well. We saw that on his (Test) debut – he can swing the ball.
"I still think Pattinson (might be ahead of Richardson in the pecking order). But even then, he's coming off no cricket. He hasn't played any cricket for a long time. At least Jhye is getting some white-ball cricket under his belt and building back up to what looks like just about his best bowling.
"I'd expect both of them to be in the squad and because there's no cricket, it might just be about who's bowling the best in the week leading up to the first Test. And they would go with one of them if Starc is not there (in the XI)."
Starc aside, there have also been questions raised about the position of Matthew Wade, who hasn’t registered a fifty-plus score in his past 14 innings. Ponting, however, expects Wade to keep his place but thinks there could be a maiden call-up on the cards for young Ben McDermott, who struck a fine century against a strong Indian pace attack in a warm-up game last month.
"I think he'll go and he might even start," the former Aussie skipper said of Wade.
"He looked as good as anyone (against India) nearly every time he walked out there. When you see him play and how desperate he is and how aggressive he is, the way he got out … you think of him as being more of a fighter than that, but a lot of them were quite soft dismissals.
"I'm sure that's a worry for them and I'm sure JL (coach Justin Langer) would have spoken to him about it every time he got out. He got 40-odd in the first innings in Brisbane and looked really good, he got caught down the leg side in the second innings so you can almost erase that one. I know it's been 14 innings between half-centuries, but the reason they've kept him in ahead of (Travis) Head is they thought he would offer more in that role.
"We know what he can do when he starts to attack and how hard he can hit the ball, but defensively he looked quite good (in his hundred against India)," Ponting said.