MELBOURNE :A slow start in the Indian Premier League put Mitchell Starc’s record price tag under the microscope but the Australian all-formats hero underlined his worth as he lifted Kolkata Knight Riders to a third title.

Starc, the costliest cricketer in the history of the league, was named Player of the Match after taking 2-14 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, including bowling opener Abhishek Sharma with an unplayable delivery that pundits judged the tournament’s best.

The performance followed on from his brilliant semi-final when he took three wickets and bowled Australia team mate Travis Head with the second ball.

Starc started the tournament as one of its least economical bowlers, generating headlines across the world that compared his $2.98 million price tag with his paucity of wickets.

It also led to a few light-hearted barbs from team mates.

None will be laughing at him now.

“There have been plenty of jokes. A lot has been made of the money,” said the rangy left-armer.

“I am older and more experienced now, so that has helped with managing the expectations and leading the attack.

“It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been great to learn and see how these guys go about it but full credit to the whole players and staff, it’s made my life pretty easy.”

Starc’s stunning return to form in the IPL burnishes his record in big matches and comes days before the T20 World Cup starts in the United States and the Caribbean.

The 34-year-old took three wickets in the final of last year’s 50-over World Cup against hosts India and will likely be important for Australia’s hopes of becoming the first nation to hold cricket’s three global trophies in tests, ODIs and T20.

Kolkata’s eye-watering bid for Starc during the IPL auctions stunned the cricket world late last year but it now appears to have been a master stroke.

They may have to fork out more to retain his services in 2025.

Hyderabad captain Pat Cummins will no doubt be happier playing with Starc for Australia than against him in the IPL.

“I thought they bowled fantastically,” Cummins said after Hyderabad were skittled for 113.

“Unfortunately, my old mate Starcy turned it on again.”

Starc, Cummins and Head will link up with the rest of Australia’s T20 World Cup squad in the coming days ahead of their opener against Oman next week.

Captain Mitchell Marsh said Australia felt lucky to have “world-class” Starc.

“He’s so important for the make-up of our team,” Marsh said after training in Trinidad.

“We know that Starcy is the X-factor, and you see throughout T20 cricket these days it’s the X-factor players who win you games, win you tournaments.”


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