‘Massive boost’ – Stoinis excited about Australia’s World Cup chances after Smith-Warner return

Australia

“If I had to single out one player that can make more impact, that would be Marcus Stoinis,” Virat Kohli had said before the start of Australia’s limited-overs tour of India earlier this year.

Kohli’s assessment was based on the allrounder’s performance in the Big Bash League in Australia. Playing for Melbourne Stars, Stoinis was the third-highest run-scorer in the tournament with 533 runs at an average of 53.30 and a strike rate of 130.63. With the ball, only Dwayne Bravo (15) had more wickets for Stars than Stoinis’ 14.

Against India, Stoinis scored only eight runs in two T20Is, and didn’t get a chance to bowl. In the ODI series, he redeemed himself somewhat with 140 runs at an average of 46.66 and a strike rate of 81.87. In the last ODI in Delhi, he took two wickets, including that of Kohli.

Stoinis may not have proven to be the biggest threat he was billed to be, but that didn’t stop his team-mates from nicknaming him “BT”. The ODI series against India was the one that put Australia’s World Cup campaign back on track. After losing the first two games, they bounced back to win the next three and clinch the five-match series 3-2. They then went go on to whitewash Pakistan 5-0 in the UAE.

Stoinis is once again in India, this time playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2019, under Kohli’s captaincy. Talking about Australia’s chances at the World Cup, Stoinis said those eight successive wins away from home have given the side the confidence it needed.

“I think everyone is really confident [going into the World Cup],” Stoinis said on the eve of Royal Challengers’ home game against Kings XI Punjab. “Eight wins, to have them all away from home, I think is very important for us. We needed it as well. We lost a lot of games over the last year or so. It’s good timing and I think everyone started to really believe in each other and we started playing really well as a team. It’s exciting times.”

But what turned it around for Australia after they had won just four out of their last 28 games? According to Stoinis, the little things made the big difference.

“From the outside, it might look like it’s all of a sudden, a big shift, but I think it also shows the game of cricket is only about small minor details, small minor changes,” he said. “I think even over the time we were losing, we learnt a lot, we starting getting closer in a lot of games. There were a lot of close game we were losing and then on the flip side when we started winning in India, a lot of them were close games as well. Just that we were on the other side.

“Even the first two we lost [to India], we had a good chance to win them. It just shows how strong the competition of cricket is all over the world, any team can win on any day. But also the belief we have in each other, it’s going a long way to help us.”

Australia’s World Cup squad has also been bolstered by the return of David Warner and Steven Smith. Warner is currently the leading run-scorer in this IPL season. Smith too, after a lukewarm start, has shown signs of form with scores of 59 not out and 50 in the last two games.

“It’s a massive boost,” Stoinis said of the duo’s return to the national side. “Also the fact that people stepped up in the last three-four months and we started winning games consistently. It all adds to the mix and hopefully, it adds to a World Cup-winning combination.”

While talking about the switch from the 20-over format to ODIs, Stoinis felt the IPL was ideal preparation because he would be batting in the middle order at the World Cup as well.

“I think it’s okay for me [switching] from T20 to one-day cricket, especially with the role I would probably be playing in the middle order,” he said. “And I don’t think there is any better preparation than playing the IPL, in front of these crowds, with all the pressure and all the external factors that go on, I think IPL makes it one of the strongest competition in the world.

“I don’t think it [my role] will change too much. I am assuming I will be batting in the middle order, whether that’s 5 or 6, I am not sure. And then with the ball, doing my stuff with the ball. We are very fortunate to have Glenn Maxwell bowling pretty well at the moment as well. I see probably myself and him sharing the overs as a fifth bowling option.”

But what about sharing the dressing room with the man who had labelled him the biggest threat two months ago? “I have known Virat for a while,” Stoinis said. “It’s probably much better playing with him than against him. Yeah, I have learnt quite a bit from him as well. His passion definitely rubs off on everyone in the change room. He is very clear, very determined, he knows what he wants to do. So it’s good to watch one of the best in the world, or one of the best of all time nearly, to go about his stuff.”

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