Australia have enjoyed a reasonably strong start to the Cricket World Cup, picking up four wins so far against just the one loss – but there are big issues bubbling under the surface.
Australia’s batting order has been reshuffled regularly since the 2015 World Cup but uncertainty still clouds the top six.
Debate about who should be in Australia’s top six – and where they should bat – continues to rage less than three months out from the start of the one-day tournament.
The looming returns of Steve Smith and David Warner, who will be part of Australia’s World Cup defence if fit, have made it unprecedentedly hard for selectors to settle on their ideal XI for the Cup opener on June 1 against Afghanistan.
The proud cricketing nation’s record of four wins from the past 26 ODIs has also prompted changes to positions and personnel.
The case of Glenn Maxwell, who was demoted to No.7 during the home summer and stationed at No.5 during the current ODI series in India, has dominated discussion about the batting order.
Marcus Stoinis, who was nominated as the opposition’s biggest threat at the start of the current tour by India captain Virat Kohli, is another gifted player unsure of what his World Cup role will be.
“I’m sure that the selection panel would love a settled team but at the moment, when you’re not winning as many games as you want, it just makes thing hard,” Stoinis said.
“We’ve obviously got two big players (Smith and Warner) coming back for us, so that will change the dynamic of the side again.
“Will make sure I’m versatile and adapt to the situations, it just depends on where the skipper or the coach needs me to play.
“It’s probably something we’re all figuring out at the moment.”
Stoinis opened during both Twenty20s against India, a reward for his form at the top of the order at Melbourne Stars.
The allrounder batted at first drop in the first ODI then Shaun Marsh’s return meant he was demoted to No.6 for the second ODI, when he top-scored and almost got Australia home in an eight-run loss.
Stoinis has batted at No.6 in 14 of his 26 one-dayers.
“If you asked me a couple of years ago, I definitely wanted to be up the order more,” the 29-year-old said.
“Now I’ve really enjoyed that role of trying to close games.”
Australia have also experimented with Alex Carey’s role in recent months, although Aaron Finch has indicated the keeper is likely to bat at No.7 at the World Cup following a stint as opener.
India will take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the ongoing five-match series if they win in Ranchi on Friday.
“Get Virat (KohlI) early. Get (MS) Dhoni early,” Stoinis said.
“Then one of the other guys might step up, so get them early.
“Then get Shikhar (Dhawan) early, then get Rohit (Sharma) early. Then we should be right I reckon.”