Starc World Cup reality facing Aussies

Afghanistan v Australia: Super Eight - ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024
Ashton Agar drops a catch off Mohammad Nab. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Australian coach Andrew McDonald defended the decision to leave Mitchell Starc out of the team for the loss to Afghanistan that has forced his side into a must-win game against India on Tuesday amid a whirlwind run of matches.

Just 48 hours after the loss in the second of three Super Eight games, the first ever to Afghanistan, the Australians will front up against India in a different part of the Caribbean, with selection to be impacted by the quick turnaround and a win needed to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Starc’s omission and another horror fielding effort were key components of the loss as the Afghanistan openers put on 118 in what was eventually a 21-run win.

Spinner Ashton Agar went wicketless after being included, but did concede just 17 runs in four overs, and McDonald said the decision was made on what was best for the team.

“It’s always a tough decision to leave Mitch Starc out of a team, but I think as you saw from the way the game unfolded, I think Ashton was suited to these conditions and we needed to make room,” he said.

“We knew that we were going to need more than eight overs to spin on that surface and it’s probably something we’ve been planning and preparing for once we knew we were at this venue and we look at our squad of 15 and set it before the tournament. We’re going to need options and flexibility, but it’s always a difficult decision.

Afghanistan v Australia: Super Eight - ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024
Ashton Agar drops a catch. Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

“You never know whether it’s going to be right or wrong. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take those early wickets, had a couple of opportunities and no doubt we’ll speak about the fielding.”

The hectic schedule after the pool games was going to demand the Australians win five games in 10 days to lift the trophy, with movement from St Vincent to St Lucia a third destination in four days having played the final pool game in Antigua.

McDonald said “when you’re hopping around the island” conditions could change as much as anything and preparations could be impeded.

But he refused to use the quickfire games and the necessary travel as an excuse for the Australians who have to beat India and then rely on net run rate to progress to the semi-finals.

“Once the draw comes out, you’re well aware of what you need to do in your planning and preparation and that goes into it months before you get here and we feel like as I said we’ve made some good decisions in our planning and prep. We’ve got another challenge with a short turnaround, every team’s facing that,” he said.

“It’ll be recovery mode tonight and tomorrow. Give the boys a bit of space and we won’t drill into it too much tonight. As you said, it’s pretty early in the morning, so getting that information in will happen in the morning of the Indian game.

“The boys know where we went wrong (against Afghanistan). They’re an experienced group. But there’s no doubt when we come back together the morning of the Indian game, we need to be at our best. And to be at our best, we need recovery. And if people don’t recover in time, then clearly, we’ll make decisions based around that.”