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Opinion

Starc raving bad: Pace spearhead’s worrying form slump jeopardises Australia’s World Cup hopes

7th November, 2023
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7th November, 2023
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Australia may not win the World Cup even if Mitchell Starc gets back to his best but they’ll have zero chance if he keeps dishing up a smorgasbord of pies. 

Starc sprayed the ball all over the place in Tuesday’s clash with Afghanistan in Mumbai to continue a worrying form slump as the tournament reaches the business end. 

Australia qualified for the semis and a showdown with South Africa with their dramatic three-wicket win over Afghanistan on the back of Glenn Maxwell’s sensational unbeaten double century. 

But they will be cannon fodder against the Proteas if Starc continues to waste the new ball and then have little impact in his ensuing spells. 

If he had been on his game, there is now way Afghanistan would have been able to rack up a total as high as 291.

The left-armer was poor in his opening three-over foray which went for 19 runs at the Wankhede Stadium and even worse when Pat Cummins brought him back in the 16th over. 

After his second over included four extra deliveries due to wide sprayed on both sides of the wicket, Starc was swiftly removed from the attack to be replaced by part-timer Travis Head’s off-breaks. 

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His last couple of overs in the closing stages were also a buffet of boundary balls with Rashid Khan belting two sixes in the 50th over after Ibrahim Zadran had put him into the crowd in the 48th.

Starc was by far the most expensive bowler with 1-70 from his nine overs and for this World Cup has picked up 10 wickets from eight games at 43.9, leaking 6.55 an over.

He came into this tournament with the reputation of a World Cup specialist after starring roles in Australia’s 2015 triumph in home turf (22 wickets) and their run to the semis four years later in England when he bagged 27 scalps. 

But he has not been swinging the new ball much and his accuracy has been well below standard, particularly in the past three outings against New Zealand, England and Afghanistan. 

Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates the wicket of Suryakumar Yadav of India.

Mitchell Starc. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images)

The Black Caps blasted him for 89 wicketless runs from just nine overs while he took 2-66 from his 10 against England to again be Australia’s most expensive bowler.

Starc has never been mistaken for a metronome who can be relied upon for line and length. 

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But when he’s at his best, he operates with the ball fast, full and swinging into leg stump or angling straight across the body of right-handers. 

At the moment the white pill is sliding straight down the leg side or sailing well wide of the off stump, rarely forcing the batters to defend. 

And his pace is down – he sends the speed gun north of 150km/h when in rhythm but he’s dropping into the 130s too frequently of late. 

Like many of Australia’s three-format stars he is coming to the end of a draining 12 months that’s included the T20 World Cup, home summer, India tour, World Test Championship final and the Ashes leading into this tournament. 

Starc missed a few Tests with a broken finger at the start of the year, bypassed the IPL yet again to prioritise Australian team duties and skipped the pre-World Cup white-ball tour to South Africa so his workload has not been as hectic as it could have been. 

The Australians don’t have a plan B for their bowing attack. Sean Abbott is the back-up seamer in the squad but after not being used in the opening seven group games, they’re not going to bring him into the XI. 

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If they’d chosen another frontline spinner in the touring party then that could have been an option with Cummins and Josh Hazlewood sharing the new ball. 

Starc now only has Saturday’s stoush with Bangladesh in Pune to rediscover his best before the Aussies look to continue their World Cup tradition of tormenting South Africa. 

If he again can’t muster the swing or at least some of the control that has made him a devastating white-ball bowler for many years, it will take a lot more than a Maxwell double-ton to get Australia into the World Cup final.

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