IPL 2024: Mitchell Starc hitting his T20 strides, one game at a time | Crickit
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IPL 2024: Mitchell Starc hitting his T20 strides, one game at a time

By, Kolkata
Apr 15, 2024 02:21 PM IST

Getting used to the tactical side of T20, Australian fast bowler is finally flourishing for KKR

You could fault Mitchell Starc for many technical errors in this IPL. The lengths, to begin with, weren’t ideal in his first match at Eden Gardens and even more wayward at Bengaluru where fast bowlers anyway tread a precarious path. The assertion with yorkers was glaringly missing, and somehow, he just wasn’t taking enough pace off the ball.

Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc bowls during the match against Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League 2024, at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. (KolkataKnightRiders Twitter)
Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc bowls during the match against Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League 2024, at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday. (KolkataKnightRiders Twitter)

Pit this in the backdrop of Kolkata Knight Riders breaking the bank to buy him for 24.75 crore, at a time when Pat Cummins has been scorching up the turf with his variations for Sunrisers Hyderabad, and murmurs are inevitable. But one thing you couldn’t ever fault Starc for is his perseverance.

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Before Sunday, Starc had only two wickets to his name with an economy of over 11. Those numbers, however, didn’t do justice to the small improvements Starc achieved in every game — from conceding four sixes in his first match to none in the last two now, increasing his dots per game to over 10 and finally getting a hang of death bowling.

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More consequential thus were the three wickets he got on Sunday, two of them coming in the last over of Lucknow Super Giants’ innings primarily because their batters were aiming for the maximum from every hit.

There is no guarantee Starc will replicate a splendid 3/28 against Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday but even he understands the transient nature of the game.

"I don't read anything so that doesn't bother me," Starc said after KKR's eight-wicket win here on Sunday. "I haven't played a lot of T20 cricket in the last couple of years, so it's probably taken me a little bit longer than I would have liked to get back into the rhythm of things and make a better impact. So today was nice in that regard."

Starc doesn’t bowl much in T20. In fact, he has featured in only two T20Is for Australia since their T20 World Cup win in 2022. That alone makes it all the more challenging for Starc to just come and deliver in a grinding, high intensity tournament like IPL.

“It's T20 cricket. For the guys that play a lot of Test cricket, this is certainly a lot easier physically. It's probably more about getting used to the tactical side of it,” he said.

He has played in all five KKR matches so far but there will come a time he could be rested. Even if they don’t, Starc is fine with it. “I’m 34, so I'm pretty good with my workloads. I've been doing this a long time, so that's fine.”

Starc finally hitting his T20 strides was perhaps the last piece of the puzzle for KKR, with Sunil Narine reaffirming his value on a daily basis, Harshit Rana testing top orders with decent lines and Andre Rusell or Varun Chakaravarthy taking care of the middle overs. Still, many of KKR’s problems seemed to stem from their inability to check the runs in the slog overs where they have been averaging 12 per over. That’s where Starc delivered on Sunday.

It was a risk alright, given both the games Starc had bowled in the slog overs before this he had ended up conceding 23 (to RCB) and 31 (to SRH) in two overs each. And with Nicholas Pooran—one of the best slog-over hitters in the world—taking strike, Starc had to make an early statement.

He did it with the first ball, pitching length and wide outside off, asking Pooran to reach for it. All Pooran could do was edge it behind. Starc’s celebrations were muted though. If he didn’t dwell too much into his initial struggle, Starc wasn’t keen to be carried away by this success as well.

“We play again on Tuesday, and I think that's a feature of T20 cricket, whether you have a good day or a bad day—you quickly focus on the next game.”

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