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Australia not panicking over Starc’s dip in form: Finch

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CANBERRA: Australia captain Aaron Finch has backed under-fire paceman Mitchell Starc to rebound after the left-armer was feasted upon by India’s batsmen in the first two matches of the One-day International series.

Australia sealed the series 2-0 with their 51-run victory in Sydney on Sunday but Starc’s struggles have raised concerns leading into the four-Test series starting on Dec 17 in Adelaide.

Starc finished with figures of 0-82 from nine overs at the Sydney Cricket Ground, two days after recording 1-65 in the opener at the same ground where he conceded 20 runs in his first over.

Finch said there would be discussions about how to deploy Starc ahead of Wednesday’s dead rubber at the Manuka Oval in Canberra but he was unfazed by the 30-year-old’s form.

“I think he’s going OK,” the limited overs skipper told reporters on Tuesday. “He hasn’t been at his very best and you have to understand that his standards are a lot higher than what you expect from most other people because of how dominant he’s been the last eight, nine years — especially in the white-ball formats.

“There will be some conversations about what we can do slightly different, whether it’s a tactical thing, when were using him through the innings. But there are definitely no panic stations from my point of view.”

He said circumstances conspired to give Starc lacklustre figures in the opening two fixtures.

Australia posted huge totals on both occasions, forcing the touring batsmen to go after the bowlers on pitches that offered little to the pace attack.

“There’s nowhere to hide in one-day cricket when you’re playing on really flat wickets with quality opposition,” Finch said. “He’d love to be swinging the balls early on, but when you’re defending big totals and playing against good players they’re coming hard at you.”

Finch said losing opening partner David Warner to a groin injury was a blow for Australia, and a replacement had yet to be determined.

Matthew Wade, unused so far, could be brought in, he said, but selectors might opt to promote wicket-keeper Alex Carey or Marnus Labuschagne, who batted at four in the second ODI, depending on the pitch.

“He’s an all-time great in one-day, T20 cricket,” Finch said of Warner. “Any team that he’s not a part of is going to be slightly weaker. But we’ve got guys that can step up and really contribute in that role as well.”

Finch was delighted at batsman Steve Smith’s back-to-back centuries in the one-dayers and expected him to play a major role in the Test series against India.

“For someone like Smithy, once he’s going he can be a hard man to stop regardless of conditions,” he said. “If he’s confident in himself and is feeling good against a certain bowler, then that’s definitely playing into his hands.”

Meanwhile, Indian batsman Shreyas Iyer backed his team’s bowlers to come good in the final ODI.India’s batsmen have relatively fared better, racking up 300-plus totals in both their chases and Iyer said the team were look at the positives from the two defeats.

“If you see the amount of workload they have gone through in the IPL [Indian Premier League] playing continuous 14 games and after that coming here, staying in quarantine so definitely plays in your mind,” Iyer said on Tuesday. “And it plays with every individual in the team, not just the bowlers. I’m sure they are world-class bowlers and with the mindset they have, they will definitely come back stronger in the next game. I really believe in them and the coaches who have been working with them.”

“Obviously, the bowling wasn’t up to the mark but I’m sure that the bowlers are really positive with their work ethics… we are very much determined to go out there and win the next game and see to it that we don’t have a clean sweep,” Iyer said.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2020

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