Mitchell Johnson: Australian heavyweights Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins prove eye-watering IPL wages right

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc will go head to head in the IPL final.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc will go head to head in the IPL final. Credit: Supplied

Well breaking the bank appears to have paid off for Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad – the two teams who made Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins the Indian Premier League’s most expensive overseas players ever.

The sides will meet in Sunday night’s final, with Starc, bought for $4.43 million, and Cummins, purchased for $3.67m, to go head-to-head – with another Aussie also front and centre in Sunrisers opener Travis Head.

Starc started the tournament off the pace and at one point looked in danger of being dropped but the Knight Riders stuck with their major investment and his back end of the tournament has helped them get to the final.

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The Sunrisers have an in-form bowling captain in Cummins, fighting their way through after being thrashed by Kolkata in the first final and then defending just 175 against Rajasthan Royals on Friday night.

Cummins has lots of big-game experience in knockout finals and has been given plenty of praise, especially through the latter part of the tournament.

There have been plenty of Aussies in the tournament, with some good and not so good performances in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.

It’s always fun coming up against a national teammate in the IPL. There is plenty on the line and I remember once coming up against Starcy myself.

He was playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore back then and he came out to bat. I got him bowled with a full ball and when it was my turn to bat, Starc was bowling at the time and returned the favour.

We both had a laugh about it and little glace at each other. But in the end, we were out there to compete and do a job for our teams, which we both did. And when the game was over, we gave each other stick about being bowled.

We’ve seen how high the stakes are when teammates do come up against each other. Starc getting Head for a duck on the second ball of the qualifying final was an example of no holding back from either player.

Starc, who was man of the match with 3-34, said he had tried to bowl a slightly shorter length while still pitching the ball up enough for it to swing.

“Powerplay wickets are very important,” he said.

“It was nice to see the back of Trav early. He’s been phenomenal this tournament. To get him cheaply was big.”

It will be an interesting final and I think it will come down to the bowlers.

We’ve seen some big scores in this edition of the IPL so that’s why the bowlers will hold the key to success.

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Travis Head is bowled out by Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc.
Sunrisers Hyderabad's Travis Head is bowled out by Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc. Credit: Ajit Solanki/AP

If Starc can be at his best and open up the Sunrisers early, we could see a one-sided final.

But the Sunrisers, under the leadership of Cummins who guided Australia to victory in the 50-over World Cup in India last year, will believe they are always in the match.

RAFA’S AU REVOIR?

As Rafael Nadal’s likely last French Open approached, all the interest surrounded how far the 14-time champion’s ageing legs could carry him through the tournament.

Now the Spanish great faces the very real possibility of saying an immediate goodbye to Roland Garros and his favourite court in the world after the draw pitted him against world No.4 Alexander Zverev in the first round.

Zverev, arguably the most in-form player on tour after taking out the Rome Masters, thought his brother was joking when he told him who he would play. The German is now taking the match-up ultra seriously, saying he was preparing to face “peak Rafa”.

Nadal’s record at the French Open is one of international sport’s most absurd stats. He’s 14-0 in finals and the one that stands out for me is his winning percentage at Roland Garros of 97.4 per cent.

This is a must-watch and one of the most fascinating first-round matches we’ve been served up in grand slam tennis.

Rafael Nadal of Spain greets the waiting fans as he walks out for a practice session.
Rafael Nadal of Spain greets the waiting fans as he walks out for a practice session. Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

At almost 38, Nadal might not have the body to physically match it with an opponent 10 years younger, but he still has his aura and will enjoy ‘home court’ advantage with the expected backing of an adoring crowd on court Philippe-Chatrier.

I think we will see an all-out Rafa to be honest. He will use all his knowledge and experience there, but most of all play with pride.

We have seen Nadal push through pain and grit his teeth and either way I think he will push the limits one last time.

Whether his reign at the French Open ends or he lives to fight another day, Nadal will remain the greatest to play on clay and his record at Roland Garros will be almost impossible to surpass.

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