Mitchell Starc was left out in favour of Kane Richardson for Australia's Super 12 clash on Friday against Afghanistan in Adelaide.
Starc took the new ball in just one match in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2022 and was used as a change-up pacer in the tournament in a rather surprising move. On Friday, Australia went a step further and sat the veteran left-arm quick out to play Richardson.
Explaining the decision as a "tactical" one, assistant coach Daniel Vettori detailed that they hoped to extract the best of Richardson in the back end of the innings in particular.
"We brought in Kane to play the role he executed tonight at the back-end of the powerplay, looking at the death overs where Kane has been exceptional in the past," Vettori said after the match.
"It was more around the effectiveness of Hazlewood and Cummins at the top and their ability to take the new ball and be wicket-takers," Vettori said after the match.
"That pushed Starcy into a different role, and he obviously came up against Kane Richardson. It was thought among the hierarchy that Kane is exceptional at the death and we'll utilise him there as opposed to Mitch.
"Players can [be flexible], particularly in their home country where you have a bigger sample size; you've seen Kane in the Big Bash and internationals and understand how effective he can be in this format."
Richardson conceded 16 runs in the 18th over with Rashid Khan pummelling him for two sixes towards the end of the over. But Vettori stated that most of Richardson's spell, except the last one, went to Australia's plan.
"I think we'll reflect on that and Kane would say he probably missed a couple at the back end of two overs. But apart from that the majority of his spell was what we expected. So if that had been tidied up he would have had a great day."
With the tournament on the line, dropping Starc was a huge call from Australia, one that evoked surprises even from the opposition camp with Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott admitting that it was a "little bit of a surprise to us" in the post-match press conference.
Starc's dwindling form had been of concern for Australia. The move to use him as an old-ball bowler created quite a stir in cricketing circles given his reputation as a new-ball bowler who can swing the ball.
But in the only game he opened the attack - against New Zealand - Starc was taken apart by an aggressive Finn Allen.
"We feel as though he's got a really important role through the middle part of the innings," Finch had explained last week.
"If you don't get wickets through that middle phase of the game, you are incredibly vulnerable at the back end regardless of who is bowling. You could have the best two ever, and if you've got two set batters then it's going to be difficult to contain them.
"It's been a change in Mitch's role to be pushing harder through those middle overs and towards the back end of the Powerplay so that we can try and get a wicket there to expose a middle order. That's the only reason for it."
However, Starc's death bowling hasn't been up to the mark with Richardson's promising presence proving to be too tempting for Australia. With the latter going for runs against Rashid this match in the death overs phase, it remains to be seen how AUstralia tackle this selection issue if they do make it to the semi-finals.
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