Marcus Stoinis’s injury has led to a call for Mitchell Marsh coming into the squad as a replacement player. As I am going to outline here, that is a huge mistake.
First off, let’s look at what Stoinis brings to the game. Forget the claims that he is a “fast bowling all-rounder” because his statistics say otherwise. He is a batsman who can bowl, and his type of bowling is pace. A first class batting average of 33 suggests he is a bit low on the batting quality stakes, certainly nowhere near good enough to play tests, while his first class bowling average of 42 suggests that claims that he is an “all rounder” are a bit exaggerated.
At one day international level, he had something of a golden run, and I am all for picking players when they are on a run, but that run has well and truly ended now. His overall ODI batting average is now just 36.37, which, by today’s standards, is a bit on the low side. His bowling average is 43.96, which means he is not an all-rounder. All-rounders have lower bowling averages than batting averages. He’s more than 7 runs worse.
In comparison, recall Shane Watson, who everyone hated. Watson had an ODI batting average of 40.54 and a bowling average of 31.79, which is almost 9 runs in the good. If Watson isn’t an all-rounder then Stoinis is a long way off.
As for Mitchell Marsh, he was left out for a reason. Sure, so he is, ever so slightly, a real all-rounder, at least at ODI level, what with averaging 35.70 with the bat and 35.54 with the ball, but he is woefully out of form, and isn’t all that good. Marsh at least is a better bowler, though.
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The one they should have been looking at is James Faulkner, he who they gave the “finisher” label to at one point because of his powerful batting, but who has a better batting average than bowling average, and is better than either Marsh or Stoinis, and by a big margin too. Faulkner’s first class bowling average of 24 is good enough for him to play as a bowler in his own right, and his first class batting average of 30.91 means he should be batting pretty high too. That’s a +6 differential, far ahead of either Marsh or Stoinis, and he’s a much better bowler.
The problem with Faulkner is that for a couple of years now he has been on the outer with the Australian team, and, rather than fight for his place, he decided to cash in and just became a professional T20 player, touring the world, where he is much more valued than the Australian team has given him. A guy who should be playing all 3 formats for Australia is instead making money touring the world.
So then Mitchell Marsh is the best option we have, if we want a fast-bowling all-rounder, and presuming that we don’t want to worry about pandering to James Faulkner’s desires. But we really shouldn’t be going with him.
So why do we want him? Because we want a 5th bowling option, right? Well, Steve Smith can bowl if we just want someone to roll his arm over. Indeed, Smith started off, internationally at least, as a full-time bowler. Glenn Maxwell should be able to get through 10 overs too. While they are spin and we want pace, the issue is that they are not pulling their weight.
So if we decide to let Maxwell and Smith get away with not working on their bowling, then the next option is to bring in a proper bowler. Not a batsman who can bowl a bit. Not Marcus Stoinis. Not Mitchell Marsh. While James Faulkner is a fantastic option, he is simply not available right now.
Nathan Coulter-Nile is as much of an all-rounder as Stoinis, and he has been in the side. He just scored 92 off 60 so surely he can bat all right. So why not have him as your all-rounder?
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc can bat a bit. They are good enough to get 50s at test level and can hit it hard too. There’s nothing wrong with having them bat at 8 and 9 with Coulter-Nile at 7.
So then who are our other 2 bowlers? Well, pick them based on the conditions. You’ve got 2 other fast bowlers (Behrendorff and Kane Williamson) and 2 other spinners (Lyon and Zampa). You don’t need Mitchell Marsh.
Coulter-Nile should be played as an all-rounder, not a specialist bowler, and if you do that then you can throw him in at number 3 sometimes for some quick runs, and then the batting order feels longer.
For Mitchell Marsh to justify his spot, we’d need to have him bowling as well as Coulter-Nile and batting as well as him too. If he is below him in either discipline, then he shouldn’t be there – unless he makes up for it in the other discipline. We’ve already got an all-rounder who bowls pace = Nathan Coulter-Nile. We don’t need two of them. Play a specialist instead.
We don’t need a batsman who bowls a bit. We’ve got two of them too = Maxwell and Smith. We don’t need a bowler who bats a bit either – Cummins and Starc both fill that role.
What we need is that extra bowler, that extra oomph to scare opposition teams. We’ve got the talent. We just need to put them in the same XI.