Australia, already depleted after Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were sent home following the ball-tampering controversy, suffered another blow on the morning of their fourth and final Test against South Africa with Mitchell Starc, their pace spearhead, being ruled out too.
In Starc’s case, the team management said it was a tibial bone stress fracture in his right leg that has sidelined the injury-prone paceman. Chadd Sayers replaced Starc in the starting XI for the Test in Johannesburg, and it was announced that Starc would fly home to have the injury assessed and was going to miss the 2018 edition of the Indian Premier League, starting in just over a week’s time.
Kolkata Knight Riders, the 2012 and 2014 IPL champions, had acquired Starc’s services after splurging Rs 9.4 crore (over £1 million) on the paceman, but have to now use the money to get a replacement.
Starc has turned out in the IPL only on two occasions, in 2014 and 2015, both times for Royal Challengers Bangalore. He picked up 14 and 20 wickets respectively. He skipped the 2016 edition as he was recovering from an ankle injury and did not take part in the 2017 campaign due to Australia’s busy international schedule.
The pacer has had a rough time with injuries over the years, particularly with his left ankle, missing out on action for long stretches.
Starc was likely to be Kolkata’s pace frontman despite the presence of Mitchell Johnson in the line-up. Johnson aside, the squad now has no big-ticket pacer, with Andre Russell, the Jamaican all-rounder, and Javon Searles, the Barbadian medium pacer, the only overseas options. They also have R Vinay Kumar, the former India international, plus Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, who were both part of India’s 2018 Under-19 World Cup-winning team.
Kolkata have other concerns too, with both Chris Lynn and Russell nursing injuries.