Homemaker Starc wants to shine in post-pandemic cricket

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Australia Cricket Starc Happy At Home

FILE - In this Dec. 27, 2019, file photo, Australia's Mitchell Starc prepares to bowl against New Zealand in their cricket test match in Melbourne, Australia. Starc hasn't picked up a cricket bat or ball in two months, and isn't exactly salivating at the prospect of going back to work. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Mitch Starc hasn't picked up a cricket bat or ball in two months, and isn't exactly salivating at the prospect of his new work conditions.

The enforced lock down because of the COVID-19 pandemic gave the Australian pace bowler and his wife Alyssa Healy, who is the wicketkeeper for the Australian women’s team, a reprieve from their constant and sometimes conflicting careers in international cricket.

Starc returns to preseason practice on Wednesday in Sydney, still unclear as to when the Australian team will tour again. One thing is for sure, he won’t be adding extra commitments to what likely will be a heavy schedule when cricket resumes.

Starc had already opted out of the Indian Premier League this season, and is unlikely to re-consider even if the lucrative competition is rescheduled to later in 2020.

“It’s hard enough juggling one cricket schedule with three formats let alone when my wife plays cricket on a completely different schedule as well. Something I take into consideration heavily is being able to spend time together,” he told a video news conference. “For us to have that time together, which we have done the last eight weeks, I wouldn’t give that back for a contract at all.”

After a “lazy couple of weeks” Starc and Healy put together a home gym to use for training during the lockdown, and played a lot of golf together.

“Selfishly, it’s been really nice to have a period of time where you can have a home routine and feel pretty normal, in a way,” Starc said. "There’s bigger and more important things happening around the world. But it’s been really nice to have eight or nice weeks at home doing the little things — a bit of house work, cooking together, having that normality in your life that doesn’t come with international cricket schedules.”

Healy, the niece of former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy, was part of the Australian team that beat India in the final of the Twenty20 Women's World Cup in front of more than 86,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March. Starc was involved in a limited-overs series against New Zealand that had to be canceled the following week before both countries closed borders and imposed severe travel restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Football leagues are slowly preparing to get underway in Australia. The Australian men's cricket team is hoping to play a limited-overs series in England in September, and then host India for a series starting in November.

It’s time for Starc to start thinking harder about how he’s going to take wickets under proposed new playing conditions that will prohibit the use of saliva to shine the ball. It has long been customary in cricket for players to use spit or sweat to keep one side of the leather ball shiny so that it swings through the air to give bowlers some extra assistance against the batters.

The International Cricket Council has indicated it will be OK to use sweat, but not saliva, to polish the ball — at least in the short term.

Starc, who claims to be a “bit more on the sweat side, just trying to not get my hands in my mouth too much,” said any temporary regulations that negate any advantage for bowlers should be off-set by something else temporarily to keep the balance between bat and ball.

He said lawmakers should consider either instructing curators to leave extra grass on the wickets or allowing the use of an artificial substance to shine the ball in the specific COVID-19 “window of time.” Artificial substances are outlawed now, but cricket ball manufacturer Kookaburra is developing a wax that could be used to shine the ball instead of saliva. He's also not opposed to playing at a day-night test with a pink ball against India — provided it's not for an entire series.

“There needs to be something in place to keep that ball swinging,” said Starc, who has one of the best in-swinging yorkers in cricket. "There needs to be an even contest between bat and ball, otherwise people will stop watching.

“Kids aren’t going to want to be bowlers — there are some pretty flat wickets, and if that ball is going straight it’s a pretty boring contest.”

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