Former World Cup-winning captain Michael Clarke has led the chorus of surprise coming from Adelaide after Mitchell Starc was sensationally left out of Australia’s final group match of their T20 World Cup defence.
Level with England on five points, Australia needs at minimum to beat Afghanistan to qualify for the semi-finals.
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But even a win might not be enough, with England (+0.547) well ahead of Australia (-0.304).
Should both nations win, Australia would have to hammer Afghanistan and hope England only scrape past Sri Lanka on Saturday.
It is why Starc’s axing, which has yet to be confirmed by Cricket Australia, for local boy Kane Richardson has caught many by surprise because the veteran quick’s record is incredible with the white ball.
Starc has taken the most wickets (27) in T20 World Cup history for Australia, while he has the equal most (3) for his nation in this year’s tournament.
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Some pundits, including Ricky Ponting and Kerry O’Keeffe, had questioned whether Pat Cummins should remain in the side during the course of the home World Cup defence.
While Starc’s pace and swing might not be like it once was, with the left-armer playing a pivotal role in Australia’s two World Cup wins of the past decade, including removing New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum for a duck at the MCG in 2015, Clarke said the veteran quick would have been one of his first picked.
“Strange one Harsha, strange one. He’s got to be injured,” Clarke responded to respected cricket broadcaster Harsha Bhogle.
“There’s absolutely no way you can leave him out of tonight’s game.
“If anyone’s going to rip through Afghanistan’s batting it’s Mitchell Starc. Left-arm, if it swings with the new ball and then we’ve seen his yorkers at the death. I don’t get it.”
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Later Adam Gilchrist stated that Starc was “left out” by Australian selectors.
His former teammate Shane Watson replied, “Are we going to go there?”
1999 World Cup winners Tom Moody and Mark Waugh also took to Twitter to ask why Starc was missing.
“Aussie team no Mitchell Starc. Is he injured or dropped?” former batter turned selector Waugh tweeted.
He later added: “Starc should be playing. He is a aggressive wicket taking bowler who could easily rip through Afghanistan. Richardson more of a holding type bowler.”
Moody appeared equally bemused.
“Mitchell Starc dropped or just miss the team bus?” he tweeted.
Australia’s cricket journalists also expressed their surprise despite some stating that Richardson was a quality player.