All-rounders are a priceless commodity in cricket, especially in the white-ball format. The difference between the two teams in the just-concluded Test series was the depth that India’s all-rounders, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Axar Patel, lent to their batting.
Australia are fundamentally different and we see that most in shorter formats. They build their side around their pace bowling all-rounders — Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green — and once they have options, they can pack their side with extra batters if the conditions so demand.
To the pace allrounder mix, if one adds Glenn Maxwell, with his off-spin to the mix, one can see that this Australian team won’t be wanting for balance.
Marsh, Stoinis, Green and Maxwell are all devastating power-hitters too. But having too many all-rounders can also be a headache for the captain in terms of where to bat them in the line-up. But, the advantage with Marsh, Stoinis, Green and Maxwell is that while they all prefer No 5-6, they have the experience of batting in different positions. Maxwell and Marsh can bat at No 3 or 4 as well, while Stoinis is a proven finisher. In his 57-game ODI career, Stoinis has batted most at No 5 and 6, but his best average is at No 7 (58.33). So far, Green has been used more at No 7 and 8, but in T20Is’ he has shown he can be effective in the top order as a pinch hitter because of his compact technique against the new ball.
While speaking to the media ahead of the first ODI against India, Marsh observed that the all-rounders provide their batting line-up with great flexibility and depth.
“For the balance of our team, having as many allrounders in here as we can is really important for the structure we line up with,” said Marsh. “We’ve seen really good teams in the past, England have guys batting at No. 8 who are genuine batters, and it gives you the ability to either set really big totals or chase big totals. Think we’ll see that this series, just the way cricket is played here in the white-ball format, you’ll have to chase or make big scores. The more flexibility and depth you can have with your batting line-up… think it will be really important.”
While Maxwell is a certainty, Australia would look to rotate their pace all-rounders in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Marsh added: “Over the next six months or so, building towards the World Cup. We might just play a few different lineups, experimenting with a few guys but the mindset is to come here and win the series. Obviously, we have got a fair bit of experience playing here which is great so hopefully it will be a few good games for us.”
The challenge for their team management is that Marsh, Stoinis and Green are not strike bowlers. During the series, their captain will be keen to have a look at their effectiveness in Indian conditions. Marsh is returning from injury and is still three weeks away from bowling fitness, Stoinis is a proven death bowling specialist in the IPL but Green is still untested in Indian conditions.
“They are just (more bowling) options for the captain. It will be a high-scoring World Cup you’d think if the wickets are good. From my experience, it’s nice to have options and important to have options to go to, to change things up and change the momentum of the batting team. More allrounders are better.”
While in India, spin bowling all-rounders can be more effective owing to the nature of the playing surfaces but when it comes to death bowling, Australia will have more options due to its pace all-rounders. Whether this tactic will be effective in Indian conditions remains to be seen but this is how they roll.