Marcus Stoinis was the archetypal young man in a hurry. In returning to international cricket after the death of his father, he believes he has found fresh perspective on the game to no longer be so rushed about it all.
As Australia’s limited-overs team works to rebuild towards next year’s World Cup after a poor 2017, Stoinis is a key part of their plans following a series of staunch displays with the bat in particular. He will take this journey, though, while cherishing every moment, following the loss of his father to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma during the Sheffield Shield segment of the season that preceded the Ashes.
At 28, Stoinis has been a player with promise for some years, ever since moving across from Western Australia to Victoria to further his chances of playing at the highest level, earning the respect of players like Chris Rogers and more recently the Australian captain Steven Smith. He now finds himself playing alongside a mentor in Cameron White, while he went through the experience of his father’s illness and death with team-mates like Adam Zampa close by his side. All this, Stoinis thinks, has helped him see the game through a different lens.
“My perspective has changed, for sure,” Stoinis said in Melbourne, where Australia’s training was restricted by wet weather. “Obviously the experiences you go through change your perspective as you go through life. Cricket for me is quite a lot more enjoyable than it has been in the past, I’ve probably been in a rush for a number of reasons to get things done in cricket.
“For the moment, it’s become a lot more fun and I’ve realised it is a family for me. When I found out about dad, I had Adam Zampa there sitting on the boundary with me and we sat there for about half-an-hour. And I’m sharing these games with him now. We stand next to each other every national anthem. I’ve got some bloody good friends and I’m having some fun doing it.
“I don’t know if ‘not taking it too seriously’ is the right way to put it, but it’s more just understanding that you’re there to enjoy it and you’re there to perform as well as you can, in front of some unbelievable crowds. You’ve got opportunities that so many people are dreaming of and you’ve been dreaming of for a long time. Once you get there you’ve got to remember to enjoy that.”
For White to be recalled for his first match since 2015 was a delight to Stoinis, not only as a former state team-mate but also as someone who had gone out of his way to ensure the allrounder would make the right developmental steps. “He’s one of the smartest players in Australian cricket if not international cricket,” Stoinis said. “He took me under the wing seven years ago when he didn’t have to.
“As soon as I stepped into the Victorian change rooms, he was probably the main person that helped show me the ropes. We trained together, I remember, six years ago in pre-season. Every morning he’d send me a message saying what are we doing this morning, why are we doing it, what are you looking to get out of it, so it’s no wonder why he’s so good. I’m stoked for him to have the chance to get back in the Aussie colours.”
Another source of advice and help has been Stoinis’ Melbourne Stars team-mate Kevin Pietersen, who has added his own spin on the world of international cricket. “He’s been unbelievable for me,” Stoinis said. “He’s been unbelievably generous with his time and he hasn’t needed to be. That’s probably been over the last 12 months that we’ve built a stronger relationship and have had continual conversations about cricket and perspective. He’s been through everything, from the front page to the back page of the paper. He’s a smart cricketer – there’s a reason why he’s as good as he is. He’s been good for me.”
All these factors have helped Stoinis to believe he is now in prime position to make an Australian berth his own after he was in, out and back into the ODI team in 2017, excelling in New Zealand then curiously being left out of the team for the Champions Trophy, only to resume impressively in New Zealand when others struggled and, in the cases of Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade, paid for it with their places. The Australians convened with a team meeting on Thursday afternoon and have discussed their plans for the series, leaving Stoinis to note how markedly different this young group feels when lined up against the vanquished and weary group he linked up with after the 2015 Ashes in England.
“That was an interesting tour, it was the same sort of thing – we played the Ashes series but in England, we lost, so coming into the team was a very different dynamic to what it is now,” Stoinis said. “It shows how hard the Ashes series are on the players and the scrutiny they get. So it was a different dynamic then.
“A couple of guys retired, a couple of guys were about to retire, they lost the Ashes… Whereas now we’ve just won the Ashes, it’s a young team, there’s been people coming into the team, people doing well, so it’s the complete opposite. I got my chance [in 2015], only played the two games then didn’t see international colours for a long time after that. I sort of fell like I might’ve missed a couple of games there for my career, but that’s all right.
“I think it’s a bit of everything [now] – finding a consistent playing group will be No. 1 and, understandably, we’re building towards a World Cup so trying to find the right mix, trying to get players playing the right role that suits their game and suits the team. As much as you want to win every single game, I think they’re building towards a bigger picture.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.