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Mitchell Starc has revealed the key to his increased success in the Test arena since 2019, saying he’s adopted a new mindset to ignore the media rather than attempt to ‘prove people wrong’.
The firebrand quick is preparing to lead the charge with the new ball for Australia in Thursday’s opening Test against India, coming off the back of a sensational 2019-20 where he took his red ball game to new heights.
Now he says that’s largely due to adopting a ‘clearer mindset’ and not caring about the opinions of those in the media.
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Speaking to ESPN’s The Cricket Monthly, Starc opened up on using doubters as motivation throughout his career.
“I just felt I probably tuned into the noise too much, and I guess I went from someone who didn’t mind seeing or reading that sort of stuff and taking that as motivation to prove people wrong or take it as a bit of a ‘f*** you’,” Starc said.
“Just with having multiple broadcasters and a whole bunch of radio and print and the rest, I probably read into that noise a bit too much.”
Starc has faced more than his fair share of criticism throughout his career – largely centred around his tendency to sometimes leak runs in Tests. One of the most high-profile critiques came in 2014, when Shane Warne slammed Starc’s body language during a disappointing opening day against India in Brisbane. “It needs to be stronger,” Warne said on Channel 9. “He looks a bit soft.”
That sparked plenty of blowback from the cricket community. Starc finished the Test with figures of 1/83 and 1/27, but used it as motivation for the remainder of the series – his passionate reaction when he claimed Murali Vijay at the SCG was proof of that.
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That was just one example of the approach Starc maintained through his career, using the outside voices to spur him on. But by late 2018, he began to realise it was overwhelming him. That summer, when India claimed a stunning series win, Starc again copped a barrage of criticism from former greats.
Starc told ESPN: “The expectations on the group, media-wise, were huge. I think I just found it was a lot of unnecessary time spent thinking about it or reading about it.”
“Going from someone who saw that as a motivation to prove people wrong, I probably bought into the noise too much, or started digging myself a bigger hole if I wasn’t bowling the way I wanted to,” he said.
“Certainly, throughout that series as well … I felt like I had 47 different bowling coaches at one point and all these different opinions that I just didn’t need to listen to.”
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On January 2, 2019, Starc deleted his social media apps in a move to turn off the constant noise from outside. He had decided to change his approach, to stop being motivated by ‘proving people wrong’.
“Since then I’ve basically gotten off Twitter and not [been] reading anything really, and not really caring what other people’s opinions are. It’s just had me in a clearer mindset to focus on what I can control and bowl the way I want to bowl,” he said. “That’s certainly how I’ve approached it since and having people I trust around me, whether it’s talking to Alyssa (Healy, his partner) or having conversations with ‘Dre (Andre Adams) or the staff around the group, or the players.”
Adams is the highly-regarded NSW bowling coach who has been widely praised for his work with Sean Abbott and Harry Conway, now both Australia A stars in the window for Test selection.
The former New Zealand paceman helped develop Starc’s techniques – both mental and physical – to become a better bowler. Since then, Starc has become more precise and frugal with the red ball.
Starc has played eight Tests since the conclusion of that India series in early 2019. In that time he’s racked up a remarkable stats sheet. 45 wickets at 18.42 and a strike rate of 34.8. That’s well below his career average of 26.97 with a strike rate of 48.1.
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He credits a new mindset with his improvements: “It’s been a genuinely clearer mindset since I probably came back from tearing my pectoral muscle during that Sri Lankan series. Just in a much clearer mindset, happier mindset, and not so much carefree but just a much clearer and more positive mindset in my approach to cricket.”
Despite some struggles in the recent white-ball clashes with India, he’s ready to make amends for the 2018-19 series loss to India.
“You never want to lose a series and you certainly never want to lose one in Australia. India were just better than us throughout the [2018-19] series with bat and ball. Sure, we haven’t hidden away from that. We needed to be better in all facets of the game and this summer’s certainly a chance to rectify that.”