PUNE, India (Reuters) - Australia paceman Mitchell Starc has raised his game to the next level and India’s batsmen need to be wary of his ability to trouble them with reverse swing, home captain Virat Kohli said on the eve of the first test beginning on Thursday.
The 27-year-old left-arm paceman was the leading wicket-taker (24) for the side on the turning pitches in Sri Lanka last year, a series in which Australia were blanked 3-0.
Starc and Kohli have played together for the Bangalore franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament and the paceman will be key to Australia’s hopes of success in their four-test series against the world’s top-ranked team.
“He is a world class bowler we all know that. He has been hampered by injuries quite often, but the way he has evolved as a bowler, it’s been outstanding,” Kohli told reporters on Wednesday.
“He has learned the art of reverse swing and bowling with the old ball as well. It’s amazing to see the way he has developed his skills. That’s something that every cricketer in the world would admire.
“Like you admire world class batsmen, you admire world class bowlers as well and you respect their skills and Mitchell is one of them.
“He has really taken his game to the next level and that’s why he is counted among the top bowlers in world cricket and deserves to be there because he has worked really hard and the results are evident.”
Australia, ranked second in the world, have lost their last nine tests in Asia and opted to pack their squad with four specialist spin bowlers to bog down an Indian side unbeaten in their last 19 tests.
Kohli said he was not surprised that the opposition were not leaning on their traditional strength of attacking with fast bowlers.
“Coming to India, playing in summers. Wickets are meant to be dry and they are meant to turn,” Kohli said.
“You will have a stronger spin bowling attack then getting six, seven fast bowlers. That is a pretty natural selection.”
Earlier this month, the 28-year-old Kohli became the first cricketer to hit a double century in four consecutive test series and his team posted 600-plus totals in three consecutive tests, another first.
Kohli is second in test rankings behind Australia counterpart Steve Smith and lauded his opposite number for developing himself into a top-class batsman. Captaincy had brought out the best in both of them as batsmen, Kohli said.
“He has been performing consistently with the bat and as captain as well,” Kohli said.
“The captain’s responsibility has urged him to focus a bit more in certain situations and push that bit extra for his team, and that has shown in his performances. He is the number one test player in the world and there’s a reason for that.
“I have seen him in the academy when he was never a dominant batsman. It’s a remarkable achievement for someone starting his career as a leg spinner.”
Editing by John O'Brien