Perth: Former Australian spearhead Mitchell Johnson has tipped successor Mitchell Starc to finish with more than 400 wickets when his Test career is done.
Starc has 115 wickets in 28 Tests and is entering the prime of his career, highlighted by his 24 wickets at 15.16 in three Tests during Australia’s mid-year tour of Sri Lanka.
Johnson, who finished with 313 wickets in 73 Tests, said Starc will pass Dennis Lillee’s haul (355) and eventually join South African superstar Dale Steyn in the esteemed 400 club.
“I said to someone the other day, he will overtake Dennis and [me] and he will do that pretty quickly. He will be contesting Dale Steyn’s record,” Johnson said.
“Dale has played 80-odd Tests and has 400. Starc is on that track at the moment. He is getting five wickets a Test. He has got the pace and he has got the bounce.
“He is going to be in his prime over the next few years which makes it even more scary.”
Starc, having overcome a freak training accident which required surgery and 30 stitches in a deep gash in his leg, will play a pivotal role in Australia’s bid to topple South Africa in the three-Test series, beginning in Perth on Thursday.
Only 13 men in Test history have more than 400 Test wickets, including Australians Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
“His [Starc’s] one-day and short-form results have been awesome but it was in Tests that he didn’t get that rhythm. He kept coming in and out of the team and he had a season, when I first came back into the team, against Sri Lanka in 2012, where he got dropped for that Boxing Day Test because they needed to rest him,” Johnson said.
“The rotation thing was holding him back – he wasn’t getting consistent cricket. Now that he is playing and fortunately he didn’t sustain any major injury with that freak accident, he is on top of his game.”
Johnson’s decision to retire was confirmed in his own mind last summer when he was greeted by a placid WACA deck for the Test against New Zealand.
He hopes curator Matt Page provides added spice this year, fearing too many flat wickets will impact on youngsters wanting to bowl fast.
“I just want to see bounce more than anything. That’s what we have all grown up with in Australia – that bit of extra bounce,” he said.
Johnson, who has remained in touch with Starc, is contemplating having Australia’s fast bowlers over for dinner at his home leading into the WACA Test.
The tourists will be without AB de Villiers – their skipper and batting kingpin – for at least the opening two Tests but Starc says stand-in captain Faf du Plessis and veteran Hashim Amla will handle the extra pressure.
Promoting his autobiography, Resilient, Johnson, who had some famous battles with the Proteas, said Amla and du Plessis were rarely flustered.
Amla, who averages 51.2 against Australia, has enjoyed his previous two Tests in Perth, scoring 47 and 53 in 2008 and 11 and 196 four years later.
“Amla doesn’t feel the pressure like most, he is very relaxed and very calm. He is a great guy off the field but never gave away anything when he is on the field,” Johnson said.
“I don’t think he will let anything affect him. He has had good success at the WACA as well – last time he was there he almost scored 200.”
Du Plessis averages 63.37 in five Tests against Australia (career average 42.39) and played well when the Proteas won in Perth by 309 runs in 2012.
“Faf likes that added pressure of being captain. I think he really stands up when he has that pressure. They are very tough mentally, in general, the South Africans,” Johnson said.
“The South Africans will be very happy to be playing at the WACA first game – they have had huge success there.”
The Australians gathered in Perth on Sunday for the official launch of the series, with training to begin in earnest on Monday. A major focus will be the battle for the third fast bowler’s role between veteran Peter Siddle and the uncapped Joe Mennie.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.