India’s colossal collapse on Sunday has set the stage up for a ‘final’ at the Chepauk on Wednesday and the chief architect behind this dramatic denouement is Aussie tearaway Mitchell Starc.
India’s much-vaunted top-order has been unable to deal with the pace and swing he has generated. With figures of 3/49 and 5/53, he has shaped up into a serious headache for India ahead of the midweek blockbuster.
The Chepauk pitch, which will be the home for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL starting later this month, is likely to be a traditional made-to-order slow track, primarily prepared with the franchise in mind. But Starc has the ability to take the pitch out of the equation with his pace and swing. And with the humidity and sea breeze around, there is every chance he will make the ball talk yet again on Wednesday.
“Starc has the ability to bring the ball back at the right-hander at a pace of 145 kmph. His action is also round-arm and pacers like that — be it Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga or Waqar Younis — have always been successful against India,” former India pacer L Balaji told TOI.
While the incoming ball has been a huge problem for the likes of Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav — who has got two back-to-back golden ducks — Starc also has the ability to take one away from the right-hander as a surprise delivery. Rohit Sharma mentioned about that delivery after India’s loss in Vizag and it’s his opening partner Shubman Gill, who has fallen to that trap in both the games.
The talented opener has looked to play the expansive drive away from the body and has ended up giving catches in the gully region.
“The only way to deal with a pacer like that is to play him late. Let the ball do whatever it wants to do and then play the shot,” Balaji said.
The other option, as pointed out by Sunil Gavaskar during an analysis after the second ODI, is to try and play Starc as straight as possible, especially in the first few overs.
“The tendency to play across the line against that kind of pace so early can cause a few problems,” Gavaskar said.
Balaji, with all his experience of playing at the Chepauk, feels India can just try and be cautious against Starc in the first few overs.
“It’s a matter of two or three overs. If the top-order can go through that period, Starc can leak runs because the ball won’t do that much when the pacer tries to pitch it up, because that’s his natural style. Later in the innings, reverse swing can come into the equation but by then the runs should be on the board,” Balaji said.
The Indian think-tank, too, would be trying to find ways to deal with this threat before it turns into a menace, especially with the teams slotted to meet each other for a bigger prize in June. And who knows, even in November as well!