Starc Magic: In the Footsteps of Alan Davidson

Will Swanton, in The Australian,11 June 2015, with the title “Starc reveals his six vital steps to yorker bliss”

The ball that made Jacques Kallis’s bails spin like catherine-wheel fireworks in the BBL. The ball that hummed and swerved past New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum in a pivotal moment of the World Cup final. The signature ball. The money ball. The curve ball. The fast ball. The curving fast ball. The inswinging, sand­shoe-crushing and stump-splintering 150km/h yorker from Mitchell Starc. The most lethal ball in world cricket. “I’ve spent a lot of time on trying to get it right,” Starc told The Australian ahead of the second Test against West Indies at Kingston’s Sabina Park. “A lot of work has gone into it, trying to get it right.


“Alan Davidson was part of the Western Suburbs cricket club in Sydney, where I’m from, and he always mentioned something like, ‘Your final six balls at practice should be yorkers’.

“I don’t know if that’s exactly what spurred it on but I used to do what he said. Six yorkers at the end of training. Eventually I got my pace up and then I tried to put the two together, the pace and the yorker, but I had some problems with my swing and wrist position until last year. I did a lot of work with Craig McDermott and Troy Cooley and it came to fruition at the right time in the Australian summer just gone. To have that yorker up my sleeve — I think it’s probably a keeper.”

Starc was coming off a troubled Brisbane Test when he disturbed Kallis’s woodwork with the delivery that turned his career. “I needed to get some rhythm back and feel the ball coming out nicely again. That was a good one to get in the back pocket. With the white ball I’d been pretty confident throughout the summer, and, even before the Brisbane Test, I was pretty confident with my white-ball cricket and my game plans there.

“Brisbane was a challenge but to go back to Twenty20 cricket and get out of the spotlight for a bit, to just being able to concentrate on bowling fast and swinging it, that was something that helped me a lot before going into that Test in Sydney. It was nice to get one through someone like him.”

McCullum was the dangerman in the World Cup final. Starc took the new ball. McCullum faced the third ball of the innings. Perfection might not exist. It might have existed in these three deliveries. The first was the inswinging yorker. It beat McCullum for pace. It beat him for length. It split the crease. It missed the Kiwi’s off stump by centimetres. McCullum panicked and charged the next ball, trying to smack it onto the roof. Swing-and-a-miss. Leg stump was missed by about 30cm.

The seam was perfectly upright when Starc’s third offering left his hand. The line was just outside off stump. McCullum tried an off- drive. Too late. He tried a delayed cover drive. Too late. McCullum was betwixt, he was between. The ball speared under his bat and curved into off stump. It was fast-bowling perfection under the potentially suffocating pressure of a tense World Cup final.

“We had the plan to get McCullum with a yorker,” Starc said. “It was interesting. Me and Billy (McDermott) had the same sort of plan against Pakistan against their opener. We said, ‘Why don’t we try to get a yorker through him first ball?’ And it turned out to be a bouncer. So it doesn’t always come off.

“Nerves played a part there. We had the same plan for McCullum because we’d seen how destructive he could be through the World Cup. It was funny listening to ­Michael (Clarke) the day before at the team meeting. He said no one’s really bowled him a decent yorker yet. Billy sort of sat there and laughed because we’d been speaking about it for days. I’m not sure how the first one missed off stump. That was the yorker. He charged me second ball and it was another yorker. It sort of went between him and leg stump. The third one swung back and got off stump. Three yorkers.”

“The plan was to bowl it, so I just kept bowling it. To have it come off, I think Billy was going off in the dressing room, and so was I on the ground. I’m glad I played my part. It surprised us how badly it affected New Zealand to have him gone so early. The technical side of it is, well, I don’t like to look at the batsman because in T20 and one-day cricket these days, they move around the crease so you can get distracted,” Starc explained.

“I like to look at a target that isn’t moving. That’s definitely not the batsman’s feet because guys like Brendon McCullum could be running at you, moving left, moving right. I want to keep it simple. There’s the spot you want to hit and there’s no need to complicate it. You try to execute it properly but if you don’t get it right, you’ll get another chance. You can’t get it right every time.”

He denied knowing if his yorker was on the money as soon as it left his hand. “I don’t know if that’s the case,” he said. “We talk about the processes of getting to the crease right, having the right feel and rhythm and letting everything else take care of itself. It’s not finished when the ball leaves your hand. You don’t know if it’s going to swing back or whatever you want it to do. It’s not like it comes out of the hand and you think, ‘Yep, that’s perfect’. It can feel great but it can still miss. But when it does come off and you see the result at the other end, it’s not a bad feeling.”

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