MELBOURNE: Australia paceman Mitchell Starc can take 300 test wickets and join the ranks of the nation’s great seamers if he can stay fit for long enough, coach Darren Lehmann said.
Left-armer Starc, who has 91 wickets from 25 matches, has replaced the retired Mitchell Johnson as Australia’s pace spearhead but a succession of foot injuries have stifled the 26-year-old’s output.
After a long lay-off following ankle surgery, Starc made a successful return in the Caribbean for the one-day tournament against West Indies and South Africa last month and will lead the attack for Australia’s three-test tour of Sri Lanka.
Only four Australian seamers have breached the 300-wicket mark, with Glenn McGrath (563) topping the list ahead of Dennis Lillee (355), Johnson (313) and Brett Lee (310), but Lehmann said Starc had the qualities to join the club.
“If he stays on the park, he could,” Lehmann said in comments published by Fairfax Media on Tuesday.
“He plays all formats — that is the hardest part for him.
“Managing him through that is going to be our challenge as a coaching staff and selection panel, and (for) high-priority test tours, one-day tours, World Cups and all that … making sure he is fit and available for those.”
Starc took eight wickets in the Caribbean at an average of 21.37 from his five matches and Lehmann was delighted with the return after the Sydney-born seamer had his home summer wiped out by injuries, forcing him to miss the World Twenty20.
“Happy he got through … He said he was a little bit rusty early but felt better as the tournament went on. It’s a good sign,” said Lehmann.
“For us it was a pretty good tick-the-box exercise where he got through and we’re looking forward to the next phase of test cricket.”
Australia play the first test against Sri Lanka at Pallekele from July 26 and Lehmann said he felt Starc’s reverse swing would be telling during the series.
“He obviously has air speed, which is going to be important when the ball goes reverse. It’s important that we keep him fit and playing. We know how good he can be,” Lehmann said.
“It’s all up to him. His ability to knock over good batsmen and also knock over the tail quite quickly, for us, that is a really important thing when you are trying to get 20 wickets in a space of time.”