In A near-empty MCG stadium, which can easily fit in a lakh, there was a man seated at a far corner in the stands, watching the T20 game between the women’s teams of India and Australia. His fiancee Alyssa, who is also the niece of former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy, was playing the game. Just another HAB (Husbands and Boyfriends) then, as that term goes. Only, this was Mitchell Starc, Australia’s best fast bowler who is out of the ongoing series against India due to an injury to his right foot.
Starc had walked in quietly. There were no hangers-on, nobody to fuss over him, as he soaked up the match. “I have been watching her (Alyssa) matches often, especially when I am not playing. I am yet to recover from my injury and so I am accompanying her for these two T20 games,” Starc said during a rain break. “I travelled to India in 2013 to watch her play in the Women’s World Cup.”
Starc, who was Australia’s bowling star in their World Cup triumph in 2015, has undergone a surgery on his right foot and ankle and is expected to start running in 10 days’ time. He is still not sure when he would get fully fit and be available for selection.
In his absence, Australia had overwhelmed India 4-1 in the ODI series, although the T20 series hasn’t gone their way as yet. But Starc hasn’t been watching the cricket as he has been immersed in his rehabilitation programme.
Considering his fiancee is also an international player, talk turned to whether the couple discuss the game. “We never discuss cricket,” says Starc. “We know what we go through as we both play the same sport and we understand each other but there is no discussion on the game. Even after this game, we will be talking about other issues.”
Cricket Australia allows HABS and WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends) of players to travel for matches. And Starc, incidentally, first met Alyssa at the Sydney Cricket Ground some six years ago. “It was during a practice session, and we have been seeing each other since then,” he says.
Now, after the game ended in India’s favour, Starc hung around to meet Alyssa. A few passers-by recognised him and walked over for selfies and photos. A short while after he spoke to Alyssa, groups of Indian fans who had started to stream in for the men’s game later in the night started to crowd him for more photos. And he obliged everyone.