IPL: Is it time for Kolkata Knight Riders to bench Mitchell Starc?

He is a legend, says batter Ramandeep Singh ahead of their Punjab Kings game

Mitchell Starc attends a press conference (photo: IPL)
Mitchell Starc attends a press conference (photo: IPL)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

At the halfway stage of IPL 2024, second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders have everything going for them as they brace to take on an under-achieving Punjab Kings at home on Friday, 26 April. Well almost everything, except the form of Mitchell Starc.

As the most expensive buy in the history of the league at a price tag of nearly $ 3 million (Rs 24.75 crores), the decorated Australian seamer has failed to get the plot right so far. Till after Sunday’s games, the 34-year-old star had picked up only six wickets for 287 runs in seven games and conceded maximum boundaries for any bowler – 44 so far.

There were reports of a finger injury in his left hand which saw Starc staying away from bowling at their nets session on Wednesday. Dusmantha Chameera, the nippy Sri Lankan pacer who was drafted as a replacement for Gus Atkinson in February, was seen having an extended bowl – but the KKR camp was fiercely protective about their star pacer.

Asked about Starc failing to do justice to his reputation so far, KKR’s new import Ramandeep Singh said at the pre-match press conference: ‘’He (Starc) is a legend and we cannot judge him on the basis of a few games. Cricket is a game of time and you need to give him that.’’ The power hitter, who has been impressive in his limited opportunities so far, assured that the Australian was available for selection.  

 The bedrock of the Knights’ success had been their batting strength where both the openers Sunil Narine (286 runs at a strike rate of 176.54) and Phil Salt (249 at 169.38) have been phenomenal at the top. Gentle giant Andre Russell and skipper Shreyas Iyer have also been at their elements, though the later’s strike rate had not been as impressive.

 In Punjab Kings, they meet a side that has been inconsistent and despite two good finds in Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma, they have floundered at the key moments and like every other year, they are all but out of play-off contention. The likes of Prabhsimran Singh, Liam Livingstone, Rilee Rossouw and Jonny Bairstow have simply failed to get into the act.

 They would be desperately hoping that regular skipper and veteran Shikhar Dhawan,  who sat out of their last three matches with a shoulder injury, is back in action to shore up the batting to provide semblance of a challenge.

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