“Despite all their problems, Marcus Stoinis’ all-round performance in this series has been a silver lining for Australia”
Australia has to deal with the disappointment of yet another series loss after losing the three-match ODI series against South Africa, at home, by a 2-1 margin. This is their third straight ODI series loss following consecutive losses to England by 4-1 and 5-0 margins at home and away conditions respectively.
They did turn out to be much more competitive in this series as compared to the previous ones but they still have plenty of problems to deal with. Their batting had been miserable throughout the series as none of their specialist batsmen except Shaun Marsh was able to cross the 50-run mark in a single innings.
Their bowlers didn’t seem to be at their best as well. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood did churn out some brilliant spells but they lacked the overall consistency desired. So everything looks gloomy for Australia unless the duo of Steve Smith and David Warner return from their bans.
Despite all these problems, Marcus Stoinis’ all-round performance during the entire course of the series has been a silver lining for Australia.
You can always expect Australia’s premier fast bowlers, Starc and Hazlewood, to be amongst the top wicket-takers in whichever series they play. However, in this series, their numbers were a far cry to that of Stoinis who topped the bowling charts with 8 scalps to his name at a scintillating average of 15.12 and a mind-blowing strike rate of 16.0. Starc with 4 wickets at an average of 38.75 and strike-rate of 42.0 and Hazlewood with 3 wickets at an average of 45.33 and strike-rate of 56.0 appeared to be no match for him.
It was Stoinis who gave his team the much-needed breakthroughs whenever the main bowlers struggled to make the in-roads. His variations and the use of short balls have always been his strong points and he showed that in the series once again. Other than Dale Steyn, all of his victims included top-order and middle-order batsmen like Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen (twice), Reeza Hendricks (twice), Faf du Plessis and David Miller.
With the bat, he didn’t have the best of times until the second ODI as scores of 2 and 14 suggested. He wasn’t in the best of batting forms prior to the series also, as scores of 0,1,44,9 and 22 in the previous five outings would suggest. But he had shown what he is capable as a batsman on previous occasions. His innings of 146* against New Zealand at Auckland, only in his second ODI, almost led them over the line. His three fifties in the five-match series against England earlier this year at home, which constituted a total of 221 runs at an average of 44.20, gave a fair idea about his batting capabilities once again. So it was only a matter of time before he struck batting form again.
He made a roaring comeback in the final encounter of the series with an innings of 63 runs off 76 deliveries. The level of maturity he showed after walking out to bat in a situation of crisis, at 39/3, was very impressive for an individual with only 21 ODIs to his name. Although his innings couldn’t help Australia chase down South Africa’s daunting total of 320/5, it did give the fans a glimmer of hope while it lasted.
There weren’t any doubts about his batting abilities ever. You can’t complain about a batsman much when his overall career batting average stands at a decent 42.41. The major doubt about Stoinis was always about how good a bowler he is. A career bowling average of 43.38 and strike-rate of 43.0 are not numbers that are not rated highly.
But he seemed like a completely different bowler in this series. He stressed upon finding consistency this time around and hence reaped the rewards of his efforts. His tally of 8 wickets, as mentioned before, was even more than that of the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi. The way he consistently notches up speeds of around 140 kph makes him quite a tricky customer with the kind of seam movement he finds. Moreover, he disguises his short and slower deliveries so well that it fetches him wickets more often than not.
So he is an individual who can carry on the all-rounder’s legacy left behind by Shane Watson a couple of years ago. Australia have consistently tried to find Watson’s replacement in Mitchell Marsh but have been disappointed almost every time. Stoinis, on the other hand, has been in and out of the squad on many occasions since his international debut but he has shown promise every time he has been given a chance.
Even internationally acclaimed success coach Anand Chulani has expressed similar thoughts. “He has all the potential in him to be Australia’s next great all-rounder,” Chulani had said in an exclusive interview with The Cricketer back in October.
“If he is given a consistent run in the team, he will surely deliver. I see some of Shane Watson’s traits in him. There are a lot of other talented Australian all-rounders like Mitch Marsh but I rate Stoinis very highly.”
Stoinis is surely on the right path now. He will find more freedom to express himself as a batsman and also as a bowler once Australia fix the chinks in their armour. After all, it depends on them now to identify this silver lining in the form of Stoinis and back him in the way he deserves to be.