It has been 10 years since Mitchell Starc last played in India. The game, on October 2010, was, in fact, his first appearance in the format. He only returned to the country twice for Indian Premier League in 2014 and 2015 and since then, unlike most other international players, have chosen to opt out of the tournament. And his last appearance in India was for the Border-Gavaskar Test series in 2017. However, his lack of experience in India may not be the reason for leaving him out of the playing XI for the ODI series opener on Tuesday in Mumbai. And don't be surprised if he picks up a few with the new ball, striking down India's formidable top three.
Overall, Starc has made 11 ODI appearances in Asia - the last one being a contest in Sri Lanka in 2016 - and has taken 26 wickets at an astounding 18.65, only behind Rashid Khan and Mustafizur Rahman among bowlers who have bowled more than 100 overs. In those 11 games, Starc was threatening with his pace and swing with the new ball and wasn't reluctant to test the player on strike with occasional cutters and pace variations. One of his tactic during those games was to attack the stumps on the slowish and flat tracks. 12 of his total wickets were eight bowled or lbw.
But that was four years back. However, Virat Kohli realises that it won't have much of an impact on the kind of bowler Starc has evolved to be over the years.
"I don't think that not having played in India [recently] will be much of a factor for him, because he's played a lot over here," Kohli said on Monday. "And anyone who has pace, once they find their length they can adjust anywhere, so the pace is always going to be an advantage. But having said that we have played against these guys a lot."
Against India, Starc has played just eight matches, taking 13 wickets. And four of them has been one of India's top three. He has dismissed Shikhar Dhawan thrice in 41 balls and Rohit Sharma once while against Kohli it's a run-a-ball equation with no dismissal. KL Rahul is yet to face the left-arm pacer.
What makes Starc even more threatening in India's top-three's vulnerability to left-arm pacers, the notable one being Trent Boult and Mohammed Amir. The Kiwi pacer has dismissed the troika 11 times while Amir was phenomenal against them in the Champions Trophy 2017 final.
Mitchell Starc vs India's top-three
Moreover, Starc has changed his bowling action a lot after working with New South Wales coach Andre Adams on the onset of just one appearance in the Ashes last year. On returning, he picked his career-best of 10 for 60 in the Sheffield Shield game against Tasmania.
"He is a very skillful bowler and he's changed his action now, which we saw him getting more swing. Looks like he's back to swinging the ball like he used to, and that makes him a lethal bowler all over again," Kohli said. "When he gets to swing the ball like that - the new ball - and then he can tear it away with the old ball because he has got his action in a linear fashion. It is pretty interesting to come up against a guy like that."
But more than the top-three, Kohli feels the middle and the lower order will face a tougher challenge against Starc.
"It is going to be a great challenge for them (middle order) to face someone like Mitchell," Kohli said. "I've played with him, played against him a lot. We'll definitely have to be up for it and especially the younger guys in the middle order. They should look for a challenge. Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, if he plays, (Kane) Richardson is an experienced bowler. Adam Zampa. All these guys will challenge us throughout the game."