What’s the story?
Whilst admitting that the visitors’ task in the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy has got tougher, the 35-year-old urged them to draw confidence from their 333-run victory in the opening Test in Pune.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a CRY event for underprivileged kids, Clarke felt, “Mitchell Starc is that X-factor for the Australian team. I think he will certainly be missed. Who they bring in I am not sure but it makes the game even tougher for Australia. But they will still be confident that they can win in these conditions. They won in Pune and now can be confident they can still win in Ranchi.”
On the series developing into an intense battle for supremacy, he quipped, “It's a fantastic series. Test cricket between India and Australia is always competitive and I love that. Whether the series is being played in Australia or India, we always see good competitive cricket and this series is no different.”
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Earlier in the day, Starc was ruled out of the remaining two Tests due to a stress fracture in his right foot. The team management revealed that the left-arm pacer had experienced acute pain during the recently completed second Test in Bengaluru and subsequent scans confirmed a serious injury.
The heart of the matter
The development comes close on the heels of Mitchell Marsh’s shoulder injury which also sidelined him for the remainder of the series. Marcus Stoinis was named as the all rounder’s replacement. The Australian selectors have quite a few options to step in for Starc. In fact, this could be perceived as an opportunity to offer a Test recall to the promising Pat Cummins.
However, Jackson Bird should be the front-runner to replace Starc in Ranchi. The right-arm medium pacer is already in the squad and offers consistency rather outright pace. If the Ranchi pitch appears extremely dry on the eve of the match, bringing in Glenn Maxwell as well as Stoinis may not be a bad idea.
With India completing a euphoric 75-run triumph in Bengaluru and storming back into the series, Australia will have their work cut out when the JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi makes its Test debut on the 16th.
Starc‘s two-wicket burst and handy cameo in Pune turned the momentum in Australia’s favour. Even though he has a tendency to blow hot and cold in Test cricket, his absence will be a body blow for Smith’s side. On the other hand, India cannot afford to rest easy as the tourists have sufficient depth at their disposal to mount a stiff challenge in Ranchi.