IPL 2024 – RCB vs KKR – Steven Smith on the Virat Kohli vs Mitchell Starc face-off

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When Royal Challengers Bengaluru host Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday night, the big sub-plot is the likely face-off between Virat Kohli and Mitchell Starc.

Starc is playing his first IPL since 2015, when he was part of RCB, who were then led by Kohli. The two have never faced each other in the IPL, with Starc’s first season in 2014 also coming with RCB.

“I quite like [Starc’s] match-up to Virat, the ability to swing the ball back down the line as a lefty,” Steven Smith, one of the experts on ESPNcricinfo’s TimeOut during IPL 2024, said on the show on the eve of the RCB vs KKR match. “We have seen him [Kohli] get out on a few occasions to Shaheen Afridi, Trent Boult, Mohammad Amir. In the first game against Punjab Kings, Kohli had an opportunity off Sam Curran dropped at slip. So I quite like the left-handed match-up.”

Against Kings, Kohli was put down by Jonny Bairstow off Curran attempting a drive away from the body when he hadn’t scored a run. Kohli went on to score a match-winning 77 off 49 balls. Starc’s IPL 2024 opener, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, ended with unimpressive returns of 0 for 53, in a match where 412 runs were scored.

Smith, who has played 187 games with Starc for Australia across formats and has led him in 58 of those, feels that Starc might well try and get Kohli’s outside edge while angling it away in the manner Curran tried, at higher pace.

“Starcy’s going to swing the ball back down the line early on, I’d imagine, and then use the wobble seam to go across him [Kohli], and potentially try and nick him off,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a good game, and I’m aware Virat would know how Starc’s trying to attack him as well – whether he tries to potentially come down the track [to] just take the swing out of play [we’ll see]. It’s going to be interesting to see how he counters it.”

Although they have never faced each other in the IPL, Kohli has faced 28 deliveries from Starc in T20 cricket for India and for RCB in the now-defunct Champions League. In those duels, Kohli hit Starc for 47 runs without being dismissed even once. Overall, Kohli averages 31.53 against left-arm pace in all T20s with 52 dismissals.

“You obviously learn as you go along, and you understand what players are trying to do to try and get you out,” Smith said of Kohli. “I’m sure he would have seen that [data], and tried to improve on that throughout. So it’s going to be a nice match-up.”

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