Melbourne, Australia: Months after being labeled "soft" by one of Australia's cricket greats and getting dropped from Australia's test XI, Mitchell Starc has been deservedly voted the player of the World Cup.
Starc's worth to the Australian team was never more evident than when he dismissed New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum in the first over of Sunday's final. The New Zealand innings never fully recovered and Australia went on to claim an emphatic seven-wicket victory.
Few could have predicted the impact Starc would make at this tournament back in December when the left-arm swing bowler returned figures of 2-110 in the second test against India in Brisbane, leading Shane Warne to describe Starc's body language as "soft."
The 25-year-old Starc was subsequently dropped for the Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the same venue where on Sunday he was named player of the tournament after using a new-found aggression to snare 22 wickets throughout the World Cup.
"I've worked really hard at it for a number of months now with (bowling coach) Craig McDermott in the background," Starc said. "A few series ago we sat down and found out a little plan and to see that come to fruition has been phenomenal."
He said his game-changing dismissal of McCullum off just the fifth ball of the final was part luck and part planning.
"There was a lot of luck involved I think, but it was a little plan that Craig and I had going a couple of days ago," he said. "Brendon has been really fantastic through the whole tournament so I think there was a lot of luck involved. I'm just happy to get that one."
McCullum said Starc was a deserving winner of his award.
"He deserves the man of the tournament for me. He was outstanding, bowled at good pace, he swung the ball late and he was incredibly accurate all the way along, as well," McCullum said.
"Sometimes a guy is just too good for you, and that's the beauty of this game, and that's why when you do have success, you've got to enjoy it along the way because it is a contest, and sometimes the other guy is a bit (too) good for you."
After a tournament notable for batting performances — including two double centuries, and teams regularly passing 300 runs — it was fitting that one of the few bowlers able to consistently make life difficult for the batsmen won the coveted award.
"It was an amazing tournament and some outstanding performances," Starc said. "New Zealand has been a great team throughout the tournament and even set the benchmark, but I think we came hard today and (that) really led to this performance."
Fast bowling allrounder James Faulkner, who overcame injury to join the Australia squad partway through the pool stage, was named Player of the Match with figures of 3-36 — including the key dismissals of Ross Taylor (40) and Grant Elliott (83).
Faulkner suffered a side strain in training ahead of the World Cup and was given until the third match to prove his fitness.
"The support staff were amazing around me," said Faulkner, who also praised selectors and "senior members of the group that gave me every bit of confidence that I could get back on the park and contribute come crunch time in this tournament."
As for Starc, he's now switching his attention to returning to the test team for its tour of the West Indies in June.
"I've really enjoyed my white ball cricket, not just this summer but seasons gone past as well," he said. "I'd like to push into test cricket now, but we've got a bit of a break now before any of the tests ... (I'm) just going to really enjoy this moment."