All of us found it very perplexing when Delhi let an all-rounder as good as Chris Morris slip away from their grasp in the Indian T20 League auctions last year. It would have been understandable if they had acquired a like-for-like replacement, but the only other premier overseas all-rounder they bought was Marcus Stoinis -- someone not quite known for playing the role Morris used to play for Delhi.
Morris is mainly a top-tail bowler and an excellent lower-order power-hitting option with the bat as well. Stoinis, on the other hand, has been a top-order batsman for the major part of his career and a part-time bowler at most. So there was quite a mismatch between the attributes of the assets released and acquired.
Before the season started, Delhi's coach Ricky Ponting had made it pretty clear that they were going to use Stoinis in middle-order and finishing roles with the bat. With the ball, they were going to use his services on surfaces which they would find suitable for his nature of bowling. Although the reasoning behind the use of his bowling skills was acceptable, people were pretty sceptical about Ponting's strategy of using his batting abilities as Stoinis neither has that good a record as a middle-order batsman nor as a finisher. However, as things stand right now, Stoinis has taken the Indian T20 League by storm with his power-hitting in the death overs.
Notable Performances so far
53(21) & 2/29 vs Punjab | Delhi won in the Super Over
53*(26) vs Bangalore | Delhi won by 59 runs
39(30) & 2/17 vs Rajasthan | Delhi won by 46 runs
Major skill on display: 360-degree range & clean striking ability
Stoinis didn't take long to flourish in his new role assigned by Ponting. Delhi found themselves in trouble against Punjab in their very first match of the season but the Australia international completely turned their fortunes around with his fabulous stroke play at the death. He walked out to bat at the fall of the fourth wicket in the 15th over with Delhi's score reading 86. With not much firepower remaining in the tank, it seemed like Delhi could get to a maximum total of around 125 to 130.
However, Stoinis had other ideas as he made a mockery of the Punjab bowlers and smashed them all around the ground. He hit a total of seven fours and three sixes during the course of his 21-ball knock of 53 and thus helped Delhi to post a fighting total of 157/8. Stoinis proved himself useful with the ball as well later on. He bowled the crucial final over and helped Delhi to tie the match by getting the all-important wickets of Mayank Agarwal and Chris Jordan off the final two deliveries.
A quiet period followed after that match for Stoinis as Delhi's top-order stepped up in the following games. But when he got a similar opportunity in the game against Bengaluru, he made full use of it once again. This time he remained unbeaten on 53 off just 26 deliveries to propel Delhi to a dominating score of 196/4. The same range of scoring all round the ground was visible in this innings again and it is this ability to access all areas of the ground that makes him such a dangerous batsman to contain in the death overs.
Fifth best Strike-rate among batsmen with at least 100 runs in Indian T20 League 2020
Stoinis currently has the fifth-best strike-rate among batsmen who have scored 100 or more runs in this season so far. Only Kieron Pollard (200.00), AB de Villiers (190.00), Nicholas Pooran (181.95) and Ravindra Jadeja (164.41) have a better strike-rate than Stoinis' 163.16. His Delhi teammates are way behind in the pecking order as well. Prithvi Shaw is the closest with a strike-rate of 147.45 followed by Shikhar Dhawan with 143.03, whereas the dangerous Rishabh Pant has scored at only 133.33 so far. Not only that, Stoinis has a batting average of 31.00 to go along with his excellent strike-rate as well.
Only batsman with two fifties from No. 5 or lower so far
There are a total of seven players -- Kieron Pollard, Priyam Garg, Tom Curran, Jos Buttler, Pat Cummins, Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja -- apart from Stoinis who have scored at least one fifty in the season while batting at No. 5 or lower but the Australian all-rounder is the only one with two fifties to his name from these positions. Not only that, both of those innings have resulted in victories for his side.
A wicket-taker with the ball as well
Not only with the bat, but Stoinis has been one of Delhi's bowling heroes on as many as two occasions as well. He picked up two wickets in the last over of the match against Punjab to take the game into the Super Over, which Delhi won eventually. And he also cleaned up Kolkata batsman Rahul Tripathi with a yorker when the batsman was threatening to chase down Delhi's total a week back. So he has bowled a total of four overs in the death (17-20) till now and has taken three wickets at a strike-rate of 9.33.
Wall of Praise
Wow! What a finish. At last Stoinis shows he can be a finisher. Always had it but spent too long playing otherwise. Gives his team a chance now!— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) September 20, 2020
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / @Delhi