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The Stoinis conundrum: All-rounder yet again failing to deliver as Australia keep tinkering to find best World Cup line-up

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Expert
9th November, 2023
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Of the 243 players who have worn the various incarnations of the Australian men’s ODI uniform, few have divided opinion about their merit as much as Marcus Stoinis. 

His teammates and many fans love what he brings to the team as a hard-hitting all-rounder with wicket-taking ability.

But there are just as many who think he is not all that he’s cracked up to be and has managed to do enough to get by without ever being a game-changer in the Australian XI. 

The 34-year-old is yet again under the gun from the selectors heading into the business end of the World Cup after a few flashes of brilliance, the seemingly constant injury niggle and a couple of dud performances which have let the team down. 

His most recent wasted opportunity came in the remarkable escape against Afghanistan which enabled Australia to lock in a semi-final berth after Glenn Maxwell’s astonishing double ton saved them from 7-91. 

Stoinis was the sixth of those wickets to fall when he was trapped in front by a Rashid Khan wrong’un on six from just his seventh delivery from a failed reverse sweep. 

Although his role is to be a finisher in the final overs, to clear the boundaries and lift the scoring rate, it should not be too much to ask Stoinis to play a proper innings when the chips are down. 

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He is a technically correct batter when he plays conventional shots and definitely has the ability to build a sizeable innings. 

But all too often he falls cheaply to turn a middle-order fall of wickets into a collapse which sinks Australia further into the mire.

There was a similar situation earlier in the tournament when he came to the wicket with his side in strife at 5-65 chasing South Africa’s mammoth 7-311 and after hitting a boundary, was out to the fourth ball he faced with just five to his name. 

Over the course of his 69 ODIs, Stoinis has been given 30 chances at three, four and five but has tallied just 644 runs at 21.47 with only two half-centuries and a strike rate under 90. 

At six or lower, he averages 31.22 and he strikes at better than a run a ball and seven is the spot where he registered his only century, a magnificent unbeaten 146 in his second ODI against New Zealand in 2017.

But in the intervening years he has been in and out of the side, a near constant presence in white-ball squads without ever having a run of form which has cemented a spot. 

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LUCKNOW, INDIA - OCTOBER 12: Marcus Stoinis of Australia interacts with Match Umpire Joel Wilson after being dismissed from a review during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between Australia and South Africa at BRSABVE Cricket Stadium on October 12, 2023 in Lucknow, India. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Marcus Stoinis interacts with umpire Joel Wilson after being dismissed against South Africa. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

With vice-captain Steve Smith hoping to return from his bout of vertigo and Marnus Labuschagne more than holding his own in the middle order, the Australians face a choice about whether to persist with Stoinis for the decisive matches of this World Cup.

Fellow all-rounder Cameron Green is also a chance to get the nod ahead of Stoinis for Saturday night’s Pune fixture against Bangladesh, which is little more than a glorified centre-wicket practice in many respects but Australia’s last chance to settle on a combination for their semi against South Africa next week. 

Stoinis has three wickets from his 14 overs across five games but his economy rate is high at seven while Green has only sent down two wicketless overs in his three World Cup appearances.

Andrew McDonald head coach of Australia speaks to media during an Australia International T20 training session at University of Otago Oval on February 24, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Andrew McDonald. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Mitchell Marsh has tallied just seven overs, taking two wickets in the Dutch cakewalk, and head coach Andrew McDonald said Maxwell’s economic off-spinners meant they had not needed their seam all-rounders as much as expected.

“We probably haven’t used those extra all-rounder overs the way that we would and that’s because of the strength of Glenn Maxwell. Him as the second spinner has been really pivotal in the role he’s played,” he said.

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McDonald cancelled training on Thursday to give the players an extra day to rest after the energy-sapping heat of Mumbai in the win over Afghanistan.

He said Smith was on track to make his comeback and Maxwell would likely be able to suit up after a few days to get over the cramps and muscle spasms which threatened to end his match-winning innings early but also made it all the more memorable. 

McDonald hinted that they may rest a few of their frontliners like captain Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood but was also weighing up whether giving players a full week off before the semi-final was the right rein to pull. 

“The more bowling options that we have we think we can cover anything that may come up, in terms of the opposition batting as well,” he said when asked about whether he was leaning towards a batting or bowling heavy line-up as his best XI. 

“We’ve seen what Stoin has been able to do with four players out after the first 10, his ability to bowl a heavy ball, bring energy to the crease and he’s got some different defensive skills as well. We feel as though he can complement at certain stages the frontline bowling.

“And we’ve also got Mitch Marsh, who hasn’t done a lot yet but now that we’ve got to this part of the tournament and his ankle’s good and his body’s good, you may see him increase his impact with the ball.” 

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