Australia vs India: Ahead of the Boxing Day Test, Australian pacer Mitchell Starc expressed his disappointment at ICC’s rating for the pitch of newly built Optus Stadium as “average”. He said, “Just as a cricketing fan, it was a bit disappointing to see Perth pitch being rated average. I thought it was a fantastic battle between bat and ball, which is what you want in Test cricket”.
A few batsmen were hit in Perth, particularly during the second innings, and Starc said that it was just good aggressive Test cricket and such ratings make it the batters’ game completely.
“For example, playing in MCG last year was pretty docile and the pitch didn’t do anything. You want a contest between bat and ball so that’s going to keep Test cricket alive and get people into the game like in Perth. It was a fantastic battle there and I thought it was a great pitch,” Starc said on Sunday.
Starc agreed that cracks opened up on the last two days but flat tracks which increasingly made cricket a batsmen’s game would then be devoid of any contest.
“Cracks did play a part but that’s what happens when a wicket is wearing on days four and five. Cricket is turning out to be a batters’ game if you keep making flat wickets always. You want an exciting contest between bat and ball. When the ball is flying around and batsmen have to play, that’s the game. Marcus Harris batted on after being hit and batsmen from both sides got hit on shoulders but carried on. It’s good aggressive cricket and it brings people to the game,” he added.
Earlier during the Adelaide Test, Starc was criticized for lazy body language, but he hit back at critics with 10 wickets in the series so far, successfully spearheading Australia’s pace attack.
“I did swing the ball in Perth but also in Adelaide. That’s something I have been working on with our bowling coach David Saker and it is going well. I hope to find some swing in Melbourne as well.
“Hopefully we have more grass on this pitch, unlike last year. I am told it is supposed to be like the Sheffield Shield game here, so it should be a good one if so and unlike last year,” he said.
The speedster said that the Australian attack is making a concentrated effort to get early wickets and the Indian openers being in poor form has certainly helped them.
He hoped to continue with similar tactics in the third Test as well, irrespective of who opens for India.
“That’s our plan we want to take early wickets and get stuck in that middle order with the new ball. That’s still our plan going forward. We will see if they make any changes to the top order. We will still have the same plan try to put them under as much pressure as we can and bowl at that middle order as early as we can.”
Starc made it clear that their game plan won’t change even if India tweak their top-order.
“We are not worried about what India is doing. For us, it’s about taking early wickets. We are trying to get into that middle order as quickly as we can and use the newer hardball. Try to put on as much pressure as we can and take early wickets. Fortunately, we have done that in the first two Tests and hopefully it continues this week as well,” Starc said.
However, the left-arm speedster doesn’t want to take Murali Vijay and KL Rahul lightly if they happen to get another chance for their past record in Australia.
“There is always pressure on anyone at any given time for both teams. We will just try to take early wickets and put that pressure back on them. Both Murali Vijay and KL Rahul have scored some big runs for India in Australia before, so you cannot take them lightly. For us it is about trying to keep their scores low and trying to get stuck in that middle order as early as we can,” he added.
His pace-partners Pat Cummins agreed about this same mistake and then talked about his duel with Virat Kohli in Perth.
Cummins said that there is very little room for error when bowling to the world’s best batsman as a bowler can’t try “anything funky”.
“Of course, early wickets are great and if you get them, then we are still fresh. We have a new ball then and it helps a bit (against the middle order batsmen).
“Virat batted really well I thought. Like all really good batsmen he has certain strengths and if you bowl in those areas, he will simply put you away probably nine out of ten times. For us, its just about starting really well and not letting him get off to a flyer. We want to bowl with consistency and bowl plenty of good balls.”
“Against him, you cannot try anything funky because he has such strengths. I am happy with how we have bowled at him so far. He batted really well in first innings (at Perth), but we could have also had him a couple times as well,” Cummins said.
(With PTI inputs)