Mitchell Starc would never forgive himself if he forfeited his Ashes dream by overloading his body with a stint in the Indian Premier League.
The 22-year-old left-arm fast bowler has turned down provisional offers that could have seen him earn up to $1 million - more than three times his Cricket Australia base salary - for a six-week tenure at an IPL franchise in April and May. The player of the tournament at the Twenty20 Champions League last October, Starc is the competition's most wanted man on the open market but he has demonstrated his desire to lead Australia to Ashes redemption by rejecting all interest.
"My focus is playing for Australia," Starc said. "IPL can wait. For me, playing for Australia has always been a dream and I've got the chance to do that now. We've got a big 12 months coming up and I think, personally, I'd rather take those six weeks to get ready for the winter over in England if I get the chance to go over there and again for the summer back home. There is a lot of cricket.
"I thought about it long and hard and had a chat with a few people. I just figured that I've been going for over 18 months now. I feel that my body just needs that time, that six weeks just to have a couple of weeks off, build myself back up in the gym and get some bowling under the belt and be raring to go if I get the chance to go to England."
A key player in all three formats for Australia, Starc can expect a significant pay bump when the CA contract list is revised in June and his decision to skip the IPL is just the latest step in an Ashes preparation that was already in full swing six months ago. The NSW quick spent last year's English summer adjusting to conditions in county cricket with Yorkshire under the guidance of their coach, Jason Gillespie.
Other Australian players, including captain Michael Clarke, are likely to feature in the IPL, which falls during a hectic schedule between a Test tour of India and the ICC Champions Trophy, which precedes the Ashes tour.
"It's all personal choice," Starc said. "I spoke with a few people - my manager, girlfriend, a few people close to me - and that was my decision. I've been pretty happy with how my body has been going and I've learned a lot in terms of my cricket and how my body has been holding up.
"I made the decision last year to go to England to work on my game and this year I think it's the smart option to take the six weeks just to recuperate, get my body right and strong and ready to go." Also intending to play in the IPL is Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who won a contract with Delhi Daredevils in 2011 and will be up for grabs at the player auction in Chennai in February 3.
"I'm in the auction," Wade said. "If I get picked up and my body's 100 per cent I'll play. If my body's not 100 per cent I'll definitely pull out of the IPL to freshen myself up for the Australian tours coming up, which would be the Champions Trophy and the Ashes. But if I feel good and like it's not going to worry me, I'll play IPL. It comes down to the individual to manage their body and workload and exactly what they can get through."
Starc's body has held up well to the rigours of a busy international calendar, while others have been more fragile, and he brushed off concerns about a bone spur in his ankle, which was used retrospectively as a reason for his controversial resting from the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka.
"It's not worrying me in the slightest," Starc said. "Three seasons ago I had two bone spurs in the same ankle and played two-thirds of the season with it. To have one spur in it this year - I think it's been blown out of proportion. It's not something that we're even slightly worried about."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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