Travis Head's brilliant hundred on the opening day of the World Test Championship final against India has set the tone for a big first innings total from Australia.
If the Aussies manage to put up a 500-plus total, it will be a huge challenge for the Indian batsman to stay in the hunt at the Oval.
Indeed, Rohit Sharma's team has a mountain to climb against the formidable Australian attack featuring Pat Cummins, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc.
Unlike the Indian bowlers that just came back from the gruelling two-month-long Indian Premier League season, none of the bowlers in the Australian attack played in the cash-rich league.
Naturally, the Australian bowlers will be fresher to mount a serious challenge against the Indian batters who until recently were playing slam-bang cricket in the IPL.
Cummins, who also captains the Australian Test team, decided to skip the IPL 2023 to be ready for the WTC final as well as the Ashes (June 16-July 31) in England.
The Indians, on the other hand, were locked in the battle for IPL supremacy until the last week of May.
Not the ideal preparation for an event as big as the WTC final for a team desperate to end its ICC trophy drought.
Now compare the all-format Indian players to someone like Starc, arguably the greatest left-arm pacer in the last 10 years.
Starc hasn't played the IPL since 2015 for a simple reason — he wants to prolong his Australia career, especially in Test cricket.
The 33-year-old made this decision eight years ago keeping his long-term future in mind.
It's a remarkable step taken by a big-name player at a time when it's easy to be tempted by the megabucks in the IPL.
But Starc says his top priority would always be Australia, his national team.
"I've tried to be smart about it, decided not to do certain things to play for Australia for a long time. Yes, the (IPL) money is good, but I would love to play 100 Test matches. Whether I get there or not, I don't know, but it will be a good match. Hopefully, I have a little bit left in me," Starc, who is playing his 78th Test at the Oval, cricketaustralia.com.
Starc will cement his legacy in England if he bowls Australia to the WTC victory over India before playing a match-winning role in Ashes.
He is no stranger to success in Test cricket.
With 303 wickets from 77 Tests, his place among the finest left-arm pacers in history is already secured.
Among the pace bowlers with 300 plus Test wickets, his strike rate — 50.00 — is the sixth best in history, behind the legendary Dale Steyn, Waqar Younis, Malcolm Marshall, Allan Donald and Fred Trueman.
Perhaps, all these astonishing numbers would not have been possible for Starc if he had not turned his back on the IPL.
But now when the Indians come out to bat in the WTC final, he will run in with all his might.
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