Super Starc bearing down on record of ‘Terror’
Mitchell Starc is a big Boxing Day bounty away from rewriting 120 years of Test cricket and finishing the year as Australia's most devastating wicket-taker since the man they called "Terror".
A bowler's strike-rate is measured on how many balls are delivered per wicket taken, and at the moment Starc's blazing 23-wicket blitz this summer has him striking hotter than almost any spearhead in Australian history.
Over the past 30 years only Brett Lee (32.89) has produced a better strike rate in a calendar year than what Starc (34.3) is headed for.
But if the left-arm destroyer continues his fearful raid at the MCG on Boxing Day, he would be on track to finish 2019 with the best strike-rate of an Australian bowler since founding father Charlie "Terror" Turner (30.55) in the late 1800s.
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In England, Starc's Test future was shrouded in doubt, but within the space of two months his statistical output has eclipsed some of the greats of the game, such as Dennis Lillee and mentor Mitchell Johnson.
Australia's Pink Panther was told by team hierarchy that he needed to become more consistent.
For a bloke who already had 200 Test wickets in quicker time than almost anyone to play the game, carrying drinks around England must have been a bitter pill to swallow.
But rather than curb his game-breaking X-factor - or kick the can - Starc has come back an irresistible force.
"Truthfully it's one of the hardest parts of the job," said coach Justin Langer on Fox Cricket's 360, of the heart-to-heart he had with Starc in England.
"But in leadership you have to have the tough conversations, and honest conversations as well.
"Maybe two years ago it might have really got him down but he just stayed up. He's stayed up and look at the results we're getting now."
For every Test this summer, Starc has written a simple but direct message on a bandage on his wrist for him to glance down at if things are going awry: "F it! Bowl Fast!"
Needless to say he hasn't had to revise his notes. The mantra has stuck.
Langer has no doubt the repackaged Starc - bowling consistent line and length at searing pace - is a better bowler.
"Without doubt. Ever since I've been involved in Australian cricket, one thing we've always said is we get out of bed every day trying to get better. I love seeing a senior bowler like Mitchell just getting better and better and better," said Langer.
"He's unbelievable. There was a bit of outside pressure on him last summer and the way he's come back, the way he fought back from only playing one Test in the ashes (is incredible).
"We asked him to become more consistent and he's just done it.
"Even for us, we see it every day, he's bowling really, really quick and the areas he's bowling is a great credit and great tribute to what a great bowler he is."
Starc (40) has taken seven more wickets than cartel mate Josh Hazlewood (33) in one less Test match - albeit Hazlewood broke down early in Perth.
When it's all said and done only Pat Cummins (54) has outshone him in 2019, and that's with four more Test matches to his name.
Starc made some technical adjustments with his action aimed at bowling at a more consistent line and length.
AUSTRALIANS' BEST STRIKE-RATES IN A CALENDAR YEAR
Brett Lee 32.89
Mitchell Starc 34.3 (this year)
Mitchell Johnson 37.56
Mitchell Starc 38.16
Charlie Turner 30.55
Clarrie Grimmett 35.12
Jack Saunders 35.40
Dennis Lillee 37.80
* 30 wickets or more