IPL 2024 – Australians at the IPL Green’s World Cup bid, Starc returns, Langer at Lucknow

The 2024 IPL starts on March 22 and for many players, it will mark the beginning of more than three months of T20 cricket cumulating in June’s World Cup in the Caribbean and USA. As usual, there is strong Australian representation at the competition including some big names returning. Here are some of the things to keep an eye on from an Australian point of view.

T20 World Cup push for Cameron Green, Spencer Johnson

Twelve or perhaps 13 of Australia’s T20 World Cup squad are locked in. But national selector George Bailey has gone on record saying that IPL performances will be factored into the final decision-making of the spots up for grabs.

Cameron Green and Spencer Johnson are at the top of the list with most to gain over the next few weeks. Green was deliberately allowed to focus on red-ball cricket ahead of the New Zealand Test series rather than playing the T20Is and the result was compelling with his 174 not out in Wellington. Part of the selectors’ thinking was they knew he would have a full IPL to work on his T20 game.

“It’s a constant conversation with multi-format players, working out the priority at any given time, and making sure they get what they need but he’s certainly one whose name I think, as we are finalising that 15 for the World Cup, will be firmly in the mix,” Bailey said.

If Green hits his straps for Royal Challengers Bangalore (providing he can make the XI), having been traded from Mumbai Indians, his all-round skillset will make him a compelling option. The question could be whether he covers more bases than Steven Smith.

Meanwhile, Johnson currently sits behind Nathan Ellis in the pace pecking order should Australia take just the four specialist quicks. However, Johnson is doing all he can to force the selectors’ hands having had an impressive BBL before bowling with pace and hostility against West Indies and, briefly, New Zealand. If he lives up to his AU$1.78 million price tag with Gujarat Titans he could be a compelling option.

“It’s going to be tight for those last few spots, I don’t envy George’s [Bailey] position,” Matthew Wade said after the recent series against New Zealand. “I wouldn’t want to be picking the 15, there’s going to be a couple of unlucky players. But…there’s always injury around. Guys that are outside the 15 may get opportunities as well so we’re happy we’ve got so much depth.”

The return of Mitchell Starc

It’s been a long time between IPL outings for Mitchell Starc. Through a combination of injury and prioritising Test cricket, his last appearance came in 2015 where he was part of an RCB side with a top three of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Starc’s overall IPL record reads 34 wickets at 20.38 with an economy of 7.16 and in the 2015 season, he claimed 20 at 14.55 with an economy of just 6.76.

This time Starc will be with Kolkata Knight Riders and returns to the competition having smashed the record for the highest price with an eye-watering AUD$4.43 million at the auction, shortly after team-mate Pat Cummins had set a new record himself.

“No doubt there’ll be some pressure that comes with the territory, but having the extra experience I have from my last IPL hopefully helps,” Starc said shortly after the paddle came down.

Given Australia’s focus on Tests and ODIs over the last 18 months, Starc’s recent two outings in the T20I series against New Zealand were his first in the format since the 2022 T20 World Cup.

“There’s a T20 World Cup, it’s a nice lead-in to that with the IPL and the quality of cricket that tournament presents. In terms of the [Australia] schedule, it’s much more quiet,” he said after getting his IPL deal. “Instead of bowling in the nets in April and May – generally there’s no batter there – so it’s much more interesting to go and play in an IPL and test myself against the best.”

Weary bodies and minds

The schedule might be quieter internationally for Australia this winter, but the IPL is yet more cricket for some players who have had a packed couple of years. While there is a considerable gap after the T20 World Cup in June, there will be some fingers crossed that key names aren’t burnt out before that tournament finishes.

Travis Head, who will appear for Sunrisers Hyderabad, is a player that comes to mind. After the highs of the ODI World Cup, where he raced against time to enter midway through due to his broken hand, his form tailed off significantly during the home summer with his century in Adelaide the only major contribution. He was given a break during the white-ball matches against West Indies but struggled in the Tests against New Zealand. He is pencilled in to have a key role at the top of the order in the T20 World Cup.

“There’s a lot of stresses,” Australia coach Andrew McDonald said after the New Zealand Test series. “He was coming off a significant injury through that World Cup, and it takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. There’s no doubt we can learn some lessons on the back of Trav’s entry into all three formats and how to give him a bit of rest in the Australian summer.”

Justin Langer’s coaching comeback

Another interesting Australian angle at this year’s IPL is the return of Justin Langer to the coaching scene for the first time since his acrimonious exit from the national team. He will take charge of Lucknow Super Giants having replaced Andy Flower in the role.

Langer will have a strong Western Australia flavour around him with Marcus Stoinis retained and WA and Perth Scorchers batter Ashton Turner picked up at the auction. However, Turner is coming off knee surgery that curtailed his domestic season. He has also brought WA and Perth Scorchers coach Adam Voges on as an assistant.

Langer had outstanding success with Scorchers in the BBL and was in charge of Australia when they won the 2021 T20 World Cup. But it will be fascinating to see how he deals with the pressures of the IPL, particularly if LSG don’t make a good start.

All the Australia players at the IPL

Cameron Green (RCB), Glenn Maxwell (RCB), Mitchell Starc (KKR), Nathan Ellis (PK), Mitchell Marsh (DC), David Warner (DC), Jake Fraser-McGurk (DC), Jhye Richardson (DC), Adam Zampa (RR), Tim David (MI), Pat Cummins (SRH), Travis Head (SRH), Marcus Stoinis (LSG), Ashton Turner (LSG), Spencer Johnson (GT), Matthew Wade (GT)

*The story was amended after Jason Behrendorff’s withdrawal

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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