Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - A World Cup coming to Scarborough, no matter who wins. Daryl Mitchell and Marcus Stoinis have a Perth connection that goes a decade back
Daryl Mitchell and Marcus Stoinis have a Perth connection that goes a decade back
It's the grand final of the Retravision Shield for the 2009-10 season, and an 18-year-old Daryl Mitchell has just walked out to bat at the WACA. His team, Scarborough Cricket Club, are in a commanding position against Joondalup with nearly 400 on the board and stalwart Theo Doropolous batting on 150.
Mitchell is greeted in the middle with a few choice words from the uncompromising figure of opposition captain Michael Swart, a first-class cricketer for Western Australia and a future international with the Netherlands. The Kiwi though holds his own and even gives it back to the seasoned pro. At the other end, Doropoulos looks on very impressed. So does the entire Scarborough dressing-room. Mitchell has after all just further justified the tag of being the “ultimate competitor”
“Daryl wouldn't shirk a contest. He was having a proper crack at this bloke. It didn't matter if he was a state player. They'd just taken the second new ball and they really went after him with the short stuff. But he took them on. There was no holding back with the kid,” recalls Doropoulos to Cricbuzz now.
Longstanding club captain Clint Heron's best memories of the teenaged Kiwi import come from the grand final from the preceding premiership season. When he'd thrown the ball to the youngster in a crunch situation and Mitchell had repaid his faith with a crucial four-wicket haul. That performance of course came in the presence of two rather high-profile clubmates who he'll be up against on Sunday (November 14) night at the Dubai International Stadium. Justin Langer and Marcus Stoinis may not have contributed much, only 11 runs between them, to their team's success on that occasion. But they did end up contributing a lot to the growth and development of the young Mitchell during his four-year spell in Perth.
Heron still remains in the system, coaching across the age groups. Doropoulos, who lives now in Adelaide as a TV sports presenter, is as far removed from Scarborough as Stoinis and Mitchell will be when they face each other in the biggest match of their lives. But he isn't the only former player from the celebrated Western Australian club reminiscing about the good old days, courtesy their two former teammates turned global headline makers.
Though Mitchell and Stoinis were two years apart, they came through the ranks around the same time. Apart from both being at Hale School, their paths though were quite different, and as Heron puts it, so too were their backgrounds.
Mitchell of course had come to Perth along with his high-profile father, John, former coach of the All Blacks. He'd received a recommendation from Jeremy Wood at Hale School, much like Stoinis and current Test opener Marcus Harris had too, as a kid with a lot of potential. But Heron recalls noticing very early on in Mitchell the urge to break away from his father's high-profile shadow and be his own man.
“Daryl obviously comes from sporting pedigree that is hard to match. He's probably always been aware of the pressure of expectation. John's son, All Blacks. That was a massive thing. He has learnt about being in pressure situations and being able to cope and be able to talk to John about it a lot,” says Heron.
“He was just funny about his pedigree. He used to take the piss out of his old man. He had great timing with that. He was very clear about his dad was his dad. He never let the reputation of his father and his status affect him. He was a ripping guy, grounded to the core and a ripping teammate,” Doropoulos adds.
The senior Mitchell would be in attendance for every other game while mother Kay would be sat in the stands with her long lens camera, constantly snapping pictures, many of which have been included in this story.
“Before one of the grand finals, we all went for dinner and John came and he gave a speech, which was fantastic. All the guys really enjoyed it and ate up every word he said,” Heron recalls.
Though Mitchell and Stoinis were two years apart, they came through the ranks around the same time
Stoinis did it very differently. His father, the late Chris, was a very successful businessman, a property developer. Heron would spend hours talking about real estate economics and investment with the senior Stoinis and recalls how sport was not really part of their background.
“What Chris did bring was that business mindset of how to make things successful. So, he got the right people around Stoin. Whether it was coaches like Noddy Holder or dieticians or fitness guys like Richard Daley or the guys at Sports Psychology,” says Heron.
He also reveals that Stoinis wasn't always the physical specimen like he is these days, where his bulging biceps never fail to get a mention on commentary. If anything, he started off as the smallest kid in the junior team, one who had a good little technique but could barely hit the ball through the infield. It took many hours and years of training and hard-work to get his body to be not just strong but extremely fit, even if there were the setbacks with regards to his shoulder.
“He'd be running up and down the West Coast Highway. He took his training levels up to another degree. I know Rich told me that Stoin had a key to the gym and a few times they'd go in early, walk in at 4.30 in the morning and Stoin would be in there already halfway through warm-up, half naked as well. A lot of people look at him and think that he's this arrogant Greek God but he's spent a lot of time working really hard to get to where he is now,” Heron says.
Or as Doropoulos puts it, “Stoin was like this little kid, but he went away and in the blink of an eye came back a man and played like it too. Whatever you see with Stoin, the imposing figure in the middle and not all, is not fluke. It's not all just natural talent. He's put in a lot of hard work.”
While Stoinis, Mitchell, Harris and AJ Tye did spend a lot of time together off the field, it was at Holder's Revolution Indoor Sports Academy that the friendship between Sunday's World Cup final opponents really started to grow. Mitchell and Stoinis would try to keep up with each other when it came to training and also be the last ones to leave after having spent hours competing against each other. It started to show in their on-field performances too.
“Daryl was never one to take a step back, whether he was giving it back to us for taking the mickey out of him for being a Kiwi or when it came to an opponent on the field, regardless of if it was a Test or a senior state player. He wanted to show he was in there for the contest. That's one of the reasons we picked him ahead of AJ Tye in that 2008-09 grand final even though he was only 18,” says the former Scarborough captain while admitting that the non-striker's end was often a very dangerous place to be when Stoinis started teeing off.
“Stoin had this commanding presence and wanted to dominate. He played club cricket the way he plays international cricket now. Stoin and I batted for 4 hours in the 2008-09 semifinal. He made 189 and I made a 130 but you could see how he played the game at his pace and never looked flustered even in the highest-pressure situations. And I can totally relate with what he said about it being difficult to stay calm as a Greek Australian,” Doropoulos chips in with a chuckle.
The former WA and South Australia all-rounder recalls Mitchell as being this very “technique-driven kid” who bowled “slowww at around 115 kph” but was the kind of teammate who'll fit into any dressing-room. Even if the one at Scarborough at the point was studded with the who's who of Western Australian cricket, and a Test great in Langer. And it extended to the hours spent in the club house, celebrating the many victories that came during the time.
“For him to come straight out of high school into a club team of that stature and to hold his own as the young pup said it all. There was this one-day game in his first season when the state players were away when he took four wickets and made a 50. It showed you that all he needed was some clear air to show his skills, which has now transformed into a Test hundred and taking NZ into a World Cup final off the back of his own bat,” says Doropoulos.
The World Cup is certainly coming to Scarborough either way
For Heron though, the most pleasing aspect of the Scarborough reunion at the Dubai International Stadium is the presence of Langer, the man he insists whose impact has had a huge amount in both Mitchell and Stoinis being at one of the pinnacles of their sport.
“Luckily for them, Justin was done with his Australia stuff by then and would spend a lot of time around the club. His training ethics really rubbed off on both the kids and his contribution to their growth cannot be mentioned enough. Justin always makes those around him better. He also believed strongly in ‘character over cover drive' in his players and both Daryl and Stoin fit that bill,” says Heron.
The best part about their journeys for Heron is how neither has changed much at all. Mitchell still keeps in touch with his former captain and the two even chatted on the eve of the final about how amazing it would have been for a number of Scarborough alumni to be there in Dubai for the final. You can meanwhile sense the pride in both Doropoulos and Heron's voices when they talk about the challenges that Stoinis has overcome in his life, from debilitating injuries to dealing with his father's ill-health and passing.
“What hasn't also changed is their keenness to be part of the big moments. You can still see Daryl out on the field, wanting every ball. And Stoin has always been that character who wants to finish the game off,” he says.
Nobody at Scarborough is surprised with the crucial roles both their one-time “young pups” played when it mattered most for their respective countries in very challenging circumstances in the semifinals.
And as Mitchell and Stoinis battle it out on the biggest stage of their lives under the watchful eyes of Langer, their former clubmates around the world will be sacrificing sleep to cheer them on. For, like Doropoulos says, the World Cup is certainly coming to Scarborough either way.
And when you pose the dream scenario with one of them bowling to the other in the final over with the World Cup on the line, Heron and Doropoulos echo each other's sentiment in saying, “You know both boys will be up for it. They always have.”