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Chennai surface could nullify Starc threat in decider

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Last updated on 21 Mar 2023 | 09:02 AM
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Chennai surface could nullify Starc threat in decider

Eight wickets in two games at an average of 12.75, the left-armer has made Indian batters dance to his tune in this series

Owned. Hammered. Humiliated. Embarrassed. Humbled. Abashed. Mortified... 

Nah, just trying to find the right word to describe India’s performance in Visakhapatnam. Truth be told, you could Google as many synonyms as possible for those aforementioned words and almost every single one of them would fit in perfectly after what we witnessed in the second ODI.

Thanks to KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja, India managed to survive Mitchell Starc’s remarkable new-ball spell in the first ODI, but it wasn’t the case in the second encounter. The left-arm paceman wreaked havoc in Vizag, picking four wickets inside 10 overs before finishing with figures of 5/53.

The Men in Blue were bundled out for just 117 in 26 overs, which Australia hunted down with 39 overs and 10 wickets to spare. This was India’s heaviest defeat - in terms of balls remaining - and Australia’s third-biggest win in ODIs. 

The two sides will now come face to face against each other in Chennai for one last time on this 41-day tour, with the series on the line. This will also be the first time that the MA Chidambaram Stadium will be hosting an ODI since December 2019.

Things to watch out for

Indian batters v Starc

Eight wickets in two games at an average of 12.75 and a strike rate of 13.3, Starc has made Indian batters dance to his tune in this series, especially with the new ball. But we have seen this happen too many times in the past, that the Indian top-order batters has struggled against a left-arm seamer. 

The likes of Mohammad Amir, Trent Boult, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Reece Topley have all troubled Indian batters in the past, and that has also led to India’s downfall in a couple of knockout matches. Let’s give you some numbers. 

The Indian batters have an average of 69.9 and a strike rate of 92.2 against right-arm pacers in the powerplay in ODIs since 2022, but those numbers come down to 23.9 and 76.9 respectively against left-arm seamers. On top of that, Starc has a stunning record in the powerplay since 2021 (19 wickets in 13 matches @ 10.9 and a strike rate of 16.1) and Rohit Sharma and Co. will have to be careful against him, especially his incoming deliveries. 

Marsh at the top is good, very good

David Warner missed the first two ODIs due to a corked quad, but Mitchell Marsh has grabbed that opening spot with both hands. The 31-year-old smoked 81 off 65 in the first ODI in Mumbai and then clobbered a 36-ball 66* in Vizag to make a mockery of India’s small target. 

Then you have Travis Head, who averages 51.53 and strikes at 108.1 as an opener. The left-hander got out cheaply in the first game but scored an unbeaten 51 in the second match. With two in-form aggressive batters - left-hand and right-hand - at the top, it can’t get better than this. 

But what happens once David Warner comes back? 

Mind you, Warner himself has been in good form in this format. The 36-year-old averages 42.38 in ODIs since 2020 and has a staggering record batting alongside Head. The two have opened the innings in four matches and amassed 507 runs together at an average of 126.8 and a strike rate of 115.2.

It’s highly doubtful that Australia would tinker with their winning combination. However, if they do want to bring in Warner, Australia have the option of leaving out Marnus Labuschagne and playing Marsh at No. 4. 

Pitch and conditions

It’s been a while since we have seen ODI cricket being played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. 1192 days to be exact. Starc has managed to extract a good amount of swing in the first two matches, but that might not be the case in Chennai. 

Historically, the venue has proved to be a paradise for spinners, and it could be Adam Zampa troubling Indian batters in the decider. The legspinner is yet to pick up a wicket in this series but could make an impact on the sluggish surface on offer in Chennai. 

There have been only three List A games played at this venue since 2022 - India A vs New Zealand A in September 2022. It was Kuldeep Yadav who scalped the most number of wickets, while Rahul Chahar also had a good series.  

Tactical nous

- Starc hasn’t been kind to Suryakumar Yadav. The 32-year-old might be bossing the 20-over format but is yet to make a mark in ODIs. He wouldn’t even have been part of the XI if Shreyas Iyer was fit, but an injury to the latter has allowed SKY to get some game-time in ODIs.

Talking about game-time, Suryakumar has faced just two deliveries in this series, falling to Starc’s inswingers in both matches. He hasn’t looked comfortable at No. 4, and it won’t be a bad idea to swap his position with Hardik Pandya. The all-rounder averages 32 at No. 4 and strikes at 119.8. Pandya has become a sort of an anchor and could easily take that spot, allowing SKY to bat with a lot more freedom down the order.

- It’s been baffling why India haven’t tried a left-hander in the top-order against Starc this series. All of his eight victims have been right-handers. He averages 12.4 against right-handers (top-7 batters) in ODIs since 2021, but that number goes up to 22.3 vs left-handers. India could have easily promoted Jadeja who is good against pace, but Axar Patel is also a viable option. 

Team combination

India

Suryakumar is yet to open his account in this series but Indian skipper Rohit has already made it clear that he will get more chances to prove his worth in this format. If the track is slow, playing someone like Jaydev Unadkat won’t be a bad idea. 

There’s also Washington Sundar waiting in the wings, in case India want a reliable spinner to bowl in the powerplay. He could also provide more stability with the bat.

Probable XI - Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar/Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami/Jaydev Unadkat.

Australia

The visitors are likely to go with the same playing XI unless Glenn Maxwell is fit and available. 

Probable XI - Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith (c), Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell (subject to fitness)/Nathan Ellis, Sean Abbott, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa.

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