Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell eye returns with third ODI against India
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Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell eye returns with third ODI against India

Mitchell Starc is in line to return to the Australian side for the third and final ODI against India in Rajkot. The fast bowler has been out of international action since the Ashes in July but hinted his comeback is on track as Australia try to avoid a whitewash.

Starc was ruled out of the South Africa tour with groin soreness that had lingered following the Ashes. He travelled to India ahead of the first ODI but did not play the first two games as he continued to be carefully managed in the build-up to the World Cup.

“It’s on track,” Starc said of his recovery. “Obviously, the priority is the World Cup so if that means we have to be mindful of tomorrow that’s one thing, but we’ll see how today goes, see how I pull up in the morning. The goal is to play tomorrow, but what that looks like depends on how today goes, the priority being the World Cup and not compromising that.”

Glenn Maxwell, too, is likely to return to action after he took part in the nets session on Tuesday. Maxwell’s last competitive game was a first-class appearance for Warwickshire in July. He was set to play in the T20I series in South Africa but experienced soreness in his previously broken leg at the first training session. He was sent home early as a precaution as he was always set to miss the subsequent five-match ODI series to be home for the birth of his first child.

Australia will be without Spencer Johnson (hamstring) and Nathan Ellis (groin), though. The pace duo has returned home to begin their recoveries ahead of the domestic season. While Johnson made his debut in the second ODI, Ellis did not feature in the series. Neither bowler is part of the World Cup squad.

Maxwell played a practice match for Victoria last Wednesday but did not arrive in India until Friday. While Starc did not confirm Maxwell’s inclusion for the third ODI, he suggested the allrounder was “certainly on track for the World Cup”.

“Yeah, Glenn [Maxwell] has come back as well,” Starc said. “He is on track. I am not sure about his particular timeline but no doubt he will be looking to make an impact as soon as he gets his chance.

“He has got a wealth of experience over here through IPL, through multiple tours. He is certainly an X-factor no matter which team he plays in. This is his third one-day World Cup. He is an X-factor for us and certainly who can take the game on.

“His ability with the ball, particularly in these conditions, adds another option in the bowling department as well. He seems in good spirits and going really well, [but] his return I am not sure what that looks like for this week but certainly on track for the World Cup.”

Australia haven’t had the best of preparations in the lead-up to the World Cup. They started the five-match ODI series against South Africa with two wins but lost the final three games, each by a margin of 100-plus runs. They then lost the first two ODIs against India by five wickets and 99 runs (DLS method), respectively, leaving themselves on a five-match losing streak.

While Starc admitted Australia’s form ahead of the World Cup is a bit of concern, but with one ODI and two warm-up games in hand, he is confident the five-time ODI champions will find a way back.

“Leading into the World Cup, it’s not a position that we want to be in,” he said, “but plenty to play for tomorrow in terms of what our make-up of the team looks like, what we want to take into World Cup campaign. We have two or three opportunities after this game before game one of the World Cup. Another chance to get accustomed to the conditions, to adapt to what’s been thrown at us against probably the favourites at the World Cup. Big day for both teams tomorrow.”

Starc also said that the team was not concerned about Steven Smith’s form. Smith missed the South Africa series with a wrist injury and has scores of 41 and 0 so far in the two outings in India.

Another area of concern for Australia heading into the World Cup is Steven Smith’s form. While the 34-year-old missed the South Africa series with a wrist injury, his returns so far in the two ODIs in India read 0 and 41. Starc also suggested that adjusting to the pitches during the World Cup will be key.

“His numbers speak for him,” Starc said of Smith. “He is a high-class player and has been a massive part of all formats for Australia, so no concern there. It is the adjustment factor.

“We have got a lot of guys with IPL experience, we know that the wickets are going to be very different through the night and day, depending on which part of India we play as well. There are not too many grounds where we play back-to-back games so, conditions are going to play a part. We just need to adjust better than what we have in the first two games.”

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