Starc joins pace tyros on sideline

Australia is yet to have the opportunity to select three of its top young pacemen – James Pattinson, Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins – in the same match. For the next few months, at least, it won’t be able to select any of them.

The back-injury curse that has repeatedly struck Pattinson and Cummins – both are sidelined for that reason – has now claimed Starc.

The soreness that forced the left-armer’s withdrawal from Australia’s limited-overs series in England has been officially diagnosed as “an early stage low-back stress fracture”.

Positive news regarding the back soreness that forced fellow seamer Jackson Bird’s early departure from the Ashes – a major injury has been ruled out and he is expected to be fit for the home summer – was overshadowed by the announcement 23-year-old Starc would be unavailable for a “prolonged period”.

The fact that Pattinson, Cummins and now Starc are all sidelined by back injuries is, says Cricket Australia’s executive general manager of team performance Pat Howard, lamentable but not unexpected.

“While it’s a disappointing result for Mitch, we know he will bounce back. Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins are all under 24 years of age and we are certainly well aware that until fast-bowlers get into their mid-20s they are more susceptible to injury,” Howard said.

“Historically, we’ve rarely seen three such promising young fast-bowlers come through at the same time and all of a similar age so when they get injured of course that will be disappointing. We’re doing our best to minimise longer-term injuries, but we are also realistic that such injuries are possible.”

While Cummins has played only one Test, Pattinson and Starc have both played 12. Only five Australian fast-bowlers – Graham McKenzie (28 matches), Craig McDermott (24), Ron Archer (19), Jason Gillespie (13) and Bruce Reid (13) – have played more often before their 24th birthday, which none of the three current players have reached.

A beneficiary of Starc’s likely absence for at least the start of the home Ashes series could be Mitch Johnson.

The veteran was an impressive performer when recalled last summer against Sri Lanka, taking nine wickets at 19 in his two Tests. He was wicketless in his sole appearance on the Test tour of India but was economical. He also boasts an excellent recent record in one-dayers, taking 23 wickets at 20.57 this year.

Johnson, 31, was not part of Australia’s squad for the recent Ashes series. He was dropped in the preceding series, in Australia. Excluding his remarkable performance at the WACA Ground in late 2010 – he took 9-82 to secure Australia’s only win of that series – his record for that series was a lamentable six wickets at 78.67.

Johnson’s much-publicised problems beset him not only in that series but also in the 2009 Ashes, in which he claimed 20 wickets but conceded just over four runs an over.

In Johnson’s favour is his ability to avoid injury. Since breaking into the national team in late 2005 the only time he has missed an extended period due to injury was when he tore ligaments in his big toe and missed the 2011-12 season.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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