Mitchell Starc replaces Mitchell Johnson as Australia prepare for India Test

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Mitchell Starc will be hoping to prove his worth when he takes to the field in the final test at the SCG tomorrow.

Mitchell Starc's up-and-down Test career has continued, with the left-arm quick called in to the Australian XI for the fourth and final Test against India at the SCG.

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The 24-year-old takes the place of Mitchell Johnson, who was ruled out of the clash, starting tomorrow, with a hamstring strain.

And captain Steve Smith is of the opinion that Starc, who has come under fire recently for his lack of consistency, will be ready to fire when the first ball of the test is bowled.

"I'm sure he's looking forward to playing out here in front of his home crowd at the SCG," Australia captain Steve Smith told reporters of Starc.

Starc's return is the only change to the side that drew the third Test in Melbourne with all-rounder Shane Watson retaining his place despite a stomach complaint forcing him from training early on Sunday.

Starc was drafted into the side for the second Test in Brisbane in the absence of Ryan Harris but a wayward performance and match figures of 2 for 110 at the Gabba saw him dropped for the third drawn Test at the MCG.

Mitchell Starc has been much more consistent with the white ball for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League.

The 24-year-old returned to Twenty20 cricket and performed brilliantly for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League and Smith said he was happy to see Starc bowling "exceptionally quick".

"The way we've seen Mitch go back into the Big Bash, it looks like he's bowled exceptionally quick.

"We're looking for hopefully more of the same he's produced in the Big Bash this week," Smith said.

"If he sustains that for long periods and if he keeps up that type of pace and sustain it throughout the day he's going to be an amazing bowler."

Starc beat out veteran quick Peter Siddle, who was axed after the first Test in Adelaide, for the third seamer spot at the SCG.

This continues the in-and-out pattern of Starc's Test career.

He narrowly edged Queensland's Ben Cutting for a spot in the Test team to face New Zealand in December 2011 but has only played 14 of a possible 37 Tests in three years, picking up 45 wickets at an unimpressive average of 36.22.

He has never strung together a run of more than two consecutive Tests as he has regularly been considered fourth or fifth in the queue behind Johnson, Harris, Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and, earlier in his career, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus.

Meanwhile, Smith has admitted that Mitchell Johnson would 'probably' have played if the test series had not already been decided.

"He's got a little hamstring strain. I think there's no secret there's a pretty big summer coming up," Smith said.

"We want him to be fresh for the one-dayers and World Cup coming up.

"We don't want to risk him."

 Australia XI: Steve Smith (capt), Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, Joe Burns, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Starc, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

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#360view: Sangakkara - a batsman in a league of his own

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Kumar Sangakkara scored an astounding 2,868 runs across formats in 2014, the most by any batsman in the history of the game.

Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe the season Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara has had. So many records have been broken by the 37-year-old in 2014, it’s difficult to imagine that the left-hander is coming towards the end of his career. 

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The numbers are simply staggering. Sangakkara scored an astounding 2,868 runs across formats in 2014, the most by any batsman in the history of the game. He amassed 1,493 runs from 12 Tests last year and though it contained a triple century against Bangladesh, there also was a 147 against England at Lord’s and a double ton against Pakistan. 

Continuing his superb run, Sangakkara smashed a majestic 203 against New Zealand in the second Test, scoring a major chunk of his team’s total of 356. He single-handedly put his side in control of the Test match with his 11th 200-plus score; only Don Bradman has more double tons. 

What’s more, he became the fastest to 12,000 Test runs, joining an elite club that only has four other members.

Those are incredible numbers and only one other player in contemporary cricket has enjoyed a similar run towards the end of his career – Shane Warne. In his last two years in Tests, Warne picked up 96 wickets in 15 Tests (2005) and 49 scalps in 10 games (2006). But Sangakkara has taken it to a new level.

He is already ahead of Brian Lara in the record books and it’s high time he was bracketed with the West Indian as one of the top two left-handed batsmen the game has seen. 

Sangakkara has won a world trophy (2014 World T20), helped Sri Lanka reach the final of numerous ICC tournaments and plundered runs in all forms of the game.

He played the better part of his career as a world-class wicketkeeper in various formats. A combined total of 26,749 runs, 57 international centuries, 659 dismissals as a keeper plus a distinguished stint as captain… what more can one ask from a cricketer?

The temptation will be to attempt to clinch the World Cup Down Under and once that tournament is out of the way, contemplate extending the Test career as much as possible. 

Sangakkara said he would love to equal Bradman’s record of double tons. But if the southpaw is consulting the record books in his retirement plans, it’s would be utterly disappointing. Because one legendary batsman recently went down that path and things didn’t go as planned.

Sachin Tendulkar had all the reasons to call it quits after the 2011 World Cup triumph in Mumbai. He had helped India achieve immense success, be it a world title or No1 Test ranking, plus scored more runs than any batsman, most probably, ever will. But he kept playing, hoping to score one more ton that would take his tally to a neat 100 centuries. That quest went on for ages and even when he did achieve it, against Bangladesh in 2012, India lost.

Sangakkara should not let trivial statistics dictate his course of action. He is without doubt one of the finest batsman and wicketkeepers of the modern game and has won the respect of every team he has played against. 

He definitely looks good to pile on the runs for the foreseeable future. But if Sangakkara does decide to continue, please let it be for the love of batting and not just statistics.

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Sangakkara ponders retirement after double ton

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Big hitting: This year Sangakkara became the fifth and fastest player to reach 12,000 Test runs.

Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara is reconsidering retirement plans after his 203 against New Zealand Sunday put him one behind Australian legend Don Bradman for the most double centuries.

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The 37-year-old had indicated the second Test in Wellington could be his last with the intention of retiring from all international cricket after the World Cup which starts next month.

But after a match-changing innings of 203 to lead Sri Lanka out of trouble and put them in control of the Test at the Basin Reserve, Sangakkara said the lure of overtaking Bradman meant he may extend his career.

"I would love to," he said, reflecting on the impact his seven-hour innings had on a match where he engineered Sri Lanka's recovery from 78 for five to 356 all out and a first innings lead of 135.

"It just depends on how everything pans out after this World Cup. It's really hard to predict what will happen and what my thoughts will be at the end of the World Cup about my future.

"I've had a chat with the (Sri Lanka) selectors and promised them I will really have a chat and reconsider to see whether there is a few more months of cricket in me Test-wise.

Sangakkara, the most prolific Test batsman in the world last year with 1,493 runs, began this year by becoming the fifth player, and the fastest, to reach 12,000 Test runs.

He crossed that threshold when he reached five against New Zealand on Saturday in his 129th Test, and went on to score another 198 runs before he was the ninth wicket to fall.

Of his 200-plus innings, five have been away from home to equal the record held by Bradman, Len Hutton and Brian Lara.

He is now fourth on the list of century-makers with 38, behind India's Sachin Tendulkar (51), South Africa's Jacques Kallis (45) and Australia's Ricky Ponting (41). Among the top echelon of Test batsmen, Sangakkara's average of 58.92 is second only to Bradman.

"The desire is always there," Sangakkara said as he weighed up the statistics against thoughts of retirement and spending more time with family and business interests.

"It's never the lack of desire or the lack of pride you take in playing for your country that makes you take a position to say 'that's enough'. It's just a case of sometime you just know it."

Should Sangakkara extend his career, Sri Lanka have Test series coming up this year against Pakistan, India, the West Indies and New Zealand again.

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