‘Not laughing’: Starc still sore from Afghanistan cup snub

‘Not laughing’: Starc still sore from Afghanistan cup snub Australia’s Mitchell Starc.

Mitchell Starc has spoken of his unhappiness at being dropped for Australia’s pivotal Twenty20 World Cup game against an Afghanistan side that neutralised his replacement Ashton Agar by putting together one of the highest opening stands of the tournament.

The super eights game in St Vincent was the second time in a row where Starc had been dropped for a T20 cup match against Afghanistan, having missed out in Adelaide in 2022 when the Australians were also eliminated early.

While the selectorsregarded Starc as the third best T20 option of the “big three” quicks after Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, their preference for Agar brought economy but no wickets, as openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran built a stand worth 118, their third century stand of the competition.

This was ultimately the platform for a match-winning score, as Australia’s chase floundered against a combination of swing bowling under lights – Starc’s strong suit – followed by the spin of Rashid Khan and the seamers of Gulbadin Naib.

“No – two World Cups in a row,” Starc told the Willow Talk podcast when asked whether his omission was a laughing matter. “Just the match-up, they saw previous games on that ground in St Vincent with spin playing a part and obviously Ash and the left-armer enticing them to make a change.

“I think Ash bowled pretty well in the power play. They probably played the spin quite well and batting first probably assessed the conditions a little bit better than we did, and had a couple of stumbles that in the end cost us the game.

“It was probably the fielding that cost us again that game. That meant we had to win against India and we fell short there as well.”

Afghanistan’s victory helped put them in a semi-final against South Africa, where the left-arm swing of Marco Jansen helped the Proteas rumble to a vast victory when bowling first under lights in Trinidad.

Starc said he had not made up his mind about his international T20 future, given he had also been a huge impactful bowler in Kolkata Knight Riders’ IPL triumph in the months before the cup.

However, he was more forthcoming in his criticism of the tournament format, which followed a languid, pre-seeded group stage with a hectic super eights phase that left numerous teams struggling to keep up.

India, with a smoother draw and a consistent diet of daytime matches to suit the time zone of cricket’s biggest market, ultimately squeezed past South Africa in the final in Barbados.

“We finished ahead of England and end up where we were pre-seeded as the second side. All of a sudden, you’re in a different group,” Starc said of the pre-seeding.

“The argument was it was because it was so hard to get around the West Indies, so fans knew where your team was playing.

“So then why don’t you have the chock-a-block tournament at the front … and then spread it out at the back end? We had the two night games and the third was a day game, so it wasn’t the best preparation. We had a delayed flight out of St Vincent, it was a 90-minute drive from the airport to the hotel in St Lucia, and then we had a 10 o’clock toss.

“I think that was probably maybe a misread [by organisers], the fact that the front half of the tournament was more spread out, and then you hit the super eights and … travel around the West Indies is probably not the easiest thing to do, certainly not to travel home from.”

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