Only injury can stop Australia’s newest weapon
AUSTRALIA has discovered a bowler of rare talent in towering inferno Billy Stanlake - the challenge now is working out what to do with him.
In simpler times the answer would be easy - send him back to Sheffield Shield cricket, bake his talent until it develops a firm crust, then watch him go.
But turning Big Willy into a long-reigning William the Conqueror is a complex equation.
When he is fully fit and firing, Gold Coast product Stanlake, to use an old country week expression, has the game stuffed, as evidenced by his storming 3-15 in the T20 match against New Zealand at the SCG on Saturday.
At 204cms he is the tallest fast bowler to ever play for Australia and he uses every centimetre of that height with a strong, rhythmical, repeatable action.
Not only can he push the speedometer to beyond 150kph but he gains menacing bounce, occasional swing and is accurate to boot.
No cricketing opponent should have Stanlake quaking in his boots for he has only one thing to fear - his own body.
The cricketing gods never give you everything.
A teenage growth spurt saw Stanlake's height surge to his current size by age 16 and he took time to grow into his body, sustaining stress fractures of the back (three times), feet and pelvis.
In recent seasons he has been banned from playing Sheffield Shield cricket after being put on a lightweight workload which, last season at least, involved bowling just four overs in the nets every second day.
Stanlake has played just two Sheffield Shield games but instantly looked the part.
In his first game against South Australia in 2015 he took six wickets (including Travis Head, Mark Cosgrove and Callum Ferguson) and put least one batsman on his backside with his sharp bouncer.
But there is no rush to play him for Queensland in the closing rounds of the Sheffield Shield in February-March for his Big Bash program has not equipped him for several heavy duty days in a row.
Stanlake will eventually have some big questions to ask himself about his own cricket journey.
Is his body really suited to four or five day cricket? Would it be better for him to concentrate on being a short game specialist in a Chris Lynn sort of way?
If he could progress to Test cricket, in a slow fused Pat Cummins sort of way, he could be a superb weapon for Australia.
His next big gig after the season's end will be the Indian Premier League.
Last week he was snapped up by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for $97,000 in what could be the bargain of the year.
Had the auction been next week he might have gone for eight times that amount such was the strength of his impact on Saturday.
Soon enough, if he stays fit, he will become hot property.
Already Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie has said he wants to sign him for life.
Gillespie had his own injury-challenged journey in cricket and he knows a potential star when he sees one.