The 29-year-old had to be content with warming the bench for much of the winter series against England, figuring only in the fourth Test at Old Trafford when Australia clinched the Ashes and then surprisingly missing out again for the fifth Test at the Oval.
The reasoning was that his style didn’t fit ideally with the blueprint of controlled bowling that Australia designed to try and capture the Ashes on foreign soil for the first time in 18 years, but Langer said Starc had worked hard on his consistency and taken well the setback of largely being overlooked in England.
“His white ball cricket has always been world class,” Langer said. “What’s impressed me is how hard he’s worked, and he worked really hard with [bowling coach] Troy Cooley through the Ashes when he wasn’t playing.
“He bowled beautifully in that fourth Test at Old Trafford. The ball didn’t reverse swing there at all but he swung the ball and he bowled really well. I love Mitchell Starc’s development . . . his maturity through that period of not playing four of the five Test match. I can’t wait to see him bowl this Test match.
“He can bowl yorkers at will, he can bowl a good bouncer. He’s never going to be a [Vernon] Philander or he’s never going to be in a sense Josh Hazlewood, who is going to bowl the [good length] ball every ball, that’s his strength. But the more consistent he can get hitting that back of a length delivery . . . he is a nightmare to face and he is getting better and better.”
Speaking for the first time since the Australian squad was announced last week, Langer defended the omission of Usman Khawaja, who has a superior Test record to Bancroft and averages nearly 53 in Australia with six Test centuries. Both Khawaja and Bancroft were dropped during the Ashes and struggled for first-class runs this summer and Langer said he didn’t think a player of Khawaja’s class needed to be in Brisbane simply to run drinks and be a back-up player in the event a concussion substitute was required.
“I’ve spoken to him. We do that usually. But Uzzy is 33 years old [next month]. He’s got a great record. He’s missed out a few times. He knows what he has to do,” Langer said.
“In this instance, we probably don’t need a 33-year-old like Uzzy not playing a Test match. That’s what it comes down to. He’s a very good player. He got himself so fit and strong. I still maintain one of the main reasons we didn’t win the World Cup was he hurt his hamstring in the semi-final. I have great admiration for Uzzy. He’s a fantastic player. And I’m sure when he finds a bit of touch, he’ll be pushing very hard for a place in the team.”