Mitchell Starc only took one wicket in the opening test in Dubai. Picture: Getty.
Mitchell Starc only took one wicket in the opening test in Dubai. Picture: Getty.

Aussies face big Starc dilemma as huge summer awaits

AUSTRALIA faces their first management nightmare of the summer with a decision looming on whether to push spearhead Mitchell Starc through a second Test match in the UAE.

Starc is only just back from six months on the sidelines and is absolutely paramount to Australia's hopes during the home summer and then the marquee World Cup and Ashes assignments to come over the next calendar year.

Australia have a comfortable four-day break before the second and final Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi but selectors must weigh up the benefits of potentially playing a long game with their most prized asset.

The big left-armer missing an extended period over the next few months would be disastrous.

But it also can't be underestimated how important it's for Australia to come away with something from Dubai.

Starc sent down 31 overs in the tour match against Pakistan A, and 36 in the first innings of a Test where he has bowled on four consecutive days on a back-breaking pitch.

He cramped in the oppressive heat on day one, although when it comes to the call over whether he should back-up, that's less relevant than the fact he's taken just two wickets in his first 73 overs of the tour.

This is not a fast bowler's surface.

Australia may not be able to win without Starc against India this summer, but how much difference can he make in Abu Dhabi?

Selectors were close to blooding Queenslander Michael Neser in the first Test and was deliberately bowled in the tour match so he would be ready for a potential call-up.

Former Test great Mitchell Johnson believes Starc was over-bowled last summer.

Australia are days away from needing to make a decision and Starc says he's prepared to play the two Tests and Twenty20 matches in the UAE.

"Those conversations (workload) will continue to be had throughout the summer. I'm really looking forward to these two Test matches first and foremost," said Starc before the first Test.

"I don't think I've played Twenty20 in about two years. That's exciting as well.

"I've had a lot of time the last few months to let my body heal by itself rather than having to rush back to play some cricket.

"I feel fit and ready to go."

Starc says his breakdown earlier this year was due to a multitude of factors, not just too much bowling.

"I don't know to be honest. A mixture of things. Between the uneven creases in South Africa, a lot of bowling throughout the summer. You can put a few things down on a list," he said.

Fellow fast bowling leader and newly-named vice-captain Josh Hazlewood admits Australia's quicks will have to be told to rest at choice moments over the next 12 months.

"It's about how we manage the quicks through that period. We obviously want to play every game, but that's not possible over the next 18 months," said Hazlewood.

"It's about missing a game here or there … getting that strength back up."

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