Tim Paine makes call amid Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Stoinis debate at World Cup

The former Australian Test captain has urged selectors to make two changes ahead of the World Cup semi-final.

(L-R) Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine, Marcus Stoinis

Former Australian Test cricket captain Tim Paine says he would make two changes to the Australian side ahead of their World Cup semi-final against South Africa. The Aussies rested Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc as they dominated their last group game against Bangladesh, winning by eight wickets.

With both expected to return to the side, two must miss out on the semi-final against the Proteas at Eden Gardens. Paine expects Sean Abbott to make way for Starc and while the other absentee is up for debate, Paine believes it should be Marcus Stoinis.

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Paine says Marnus Labuschagne offers the Australian side more batting depth than Stoinis, which is crucial come this stage of a World Cup. “I wouldn't definitely play Stonis,” Paine said on SEN Whateley. “Without seeing the wicket, I find it really hard to make a call."

“But the only way I'm playing Marcus Stoinis ahead of Marnus is if we use him in a new ball role. If we don't, I'm taking the batting every day of the week. If we lose the toss at Eden Gardens, it looks like that wicket has worn and it has been difficult to bat on.

“The reason I would have had Marnus Labuschagne in our World Cup squad is because of this moment. If it spins, you need skill. If we're chasing in the second innings and they've got three spinners, we need a guy who averages 60 in Test cricket. He's got the ability to handle that type of bowling and that type of pressure. If Stoinis isn't going to use the new ball for a couple of overs and he's only bowled something like 19 overs for the World Cup, then I'm going to go with Marnus ahead of him and bring Maxwell in.”

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne celebrates his fifty runs during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match between Australia and England in Ahmedabad, India, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
Tim Paine says Marnus Labuschagne (pictured) offers the Australian side more batting depth which is crucial come this stage of a World Cup. Image: Getty

Shane Watson believes Labuschagne should retain his spot

Shane Watson echoed Ponting's sentiment, believing Labuschagne is the right man to deal with the moving ball. The early overs under lights have been consistently the toughest for batsmen at the World Cup but Labuschagne has coped as well as anyone in the difficult conditions.

“He’s someone who has done a very good job for Australia throughout this World Cup, and as well Marcus Stoinis hasn’t set this World Cup alight yet,” Watson said. “What we’ve seen in this World Cup, is if Australia end up batting second in a semi-final, that period with those two new balls swinging around, you do need your best technically equipped batters who can handle that moving ball.

“Marnus Labuschagne, with the Test skills, he’s got the ability to be able to handle a moving ball. There is a chance that Australia will have to bat second under lights, and he’s done a very good job of that throughout this tournament.”

Labuschagne has been involved in 18 consecutive games for Australia dating back to the start of the ODI series in South Africa where he came into the side as a concussion substitute for Cameron Green. As a result of numerous injuries, he has retained his place in the team.

He has averaged 35.75 during the World Cup, but Smith's knock against Bangladesh took his average to 38.28. Tellingly, Smith is striking at 88.74 compared to Labuschagne's 77.08.

Stoinis missed games earlier in the tournament with a calf issue and has only managed scores of 5, 20 not out, 21 and 6. The brutal selection call may come down to whether the Aussies prefer Stonois' bowling or Labuschagne's fielding, which was on full display when he got two sensational run-outs in Saturday's game against Bangladesh.

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