On Sunday night in Dubai, Stoinis and Mitchell, school mates and long-time friends will face off in a World Cup final in Dubai, with Langer watching as Australia coach.
Just as they did in their respective T20 World Cup semi-finals over the last 48 hours, back in 2009 both Stoinis and Mitchell were heroes for Scarborough. Stoinis made 189 in the semi-final. Then in the final, Mitchell, just two months shy of his 18th birthday, produced a match-winning spell taking 4 for 26 to help Scarborough beat Bayswater-Morley to win the premiership.
Mitchell’s captain that day, former Western Australia opener Clint Heron, remembers the gamble he took. Bayswater-Morley were 2 for 169 chasing 265 when Heron turned to Mitchell.
“He turned the game for us big time,” Heron told ESPNcricinfo. “We obviously had some big guns in the team at the time and they had had a crack and not quite got through. I spoke a bit with Alfie [Langer] about it.
“We threw the ball to Daryl thinking he just might be one of those guys that will make something happen. And he got a wicket almost straight away, I think it might have been the first ball of his spell. He’s just such a competitor, which is why we sort of thought it was a good sort of roll of the dice at that stage because we were right up against it at that point.”
Mitchell had moved to Perth from New Zealand three years earlier when his father John Mitchell was appointed the inaugural coach of the Western Force in the Super 14 Rugby competition.
He was enrolled at Hale School where he met Stoinis, two years his senior, and played in the school side alongside Stoinis and Australian Rugby Union representative Dane Haylett-Petty.
Stoinis and Mitchell are kindred spirits in many ways. They trained together non-stop over a period of nearly five years. Whether it was at Scarborough under Heron and Langer, privately with Langer’s long-time batting mentor Neil ‘Noddy’ Holder, or on their own together in the nets and gym at Revolution Sports indoor centre in Perth, the pair were relentless in their pursuit of becoming the best cricketers they possibly could. Mitchell told ESPNCricinfo prior to the World Cup that both Holder and Langer were major influences on his career.
“To be able to first of all work with Neil ‘Noddy’ Holder not just with batting but as a mentor as well… to be able to spend time with him has helped me grow my game not only as a cricketer but as a person,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, [I was] very lucky to play club cricket in Scarborough with Justin Langer in my first year out of school was really cool. I remember growing up watching him as a kid and to share a dressing room with him was awesome.”
Ironically, both had to leave Perth to get an extended run at first-class level. Stoinis moved to Melbourne without a contract to try his luck with Victoria following limited opportunities with WA. Mitchell headed back to New Zealand in 2011 to play for Northern Districts.
Stoinis had dominated grade cricket in Perth and Melbourne and his ascension to domestic and international ranks was less of a surprise than Mitchell’s, whose returns at Scarborough in his early days were relatively modest. But Heron believed there was something special there.
“Knowing his character, he was always one of those guys that will just work out a way to get the very best out of himself.” he said. “And even since he’s been gone, he’ll be in touch to just ask questions about how you try and face an offspinner in certain conditions. And then you’d catch up for coffee whenever he’s back in town to literally just talk about batting and how he could possibly improve.
“That’s where those two guys, Stoinis and Mitchell, were so similar that every stone that was left, they turned it to see what was underneath and how they could get better.
“The amount that Stoin has done in the background and the different people that he’s got to help him in his game, to get to where he is, the fitness, etc, is incredible.”
The club won four first-grade premierships in a row with Langer playing in three of them, captaining and starring in the first two after his international career had finished. AJ Tye and Marcus Harris are other international players to come through the club. Heron believes Langer’s impact on their careers can’t be understated.
“Justin’s part to play was instrumental as well,” Heron said. “I know he’s caught some flak for being critical and harsh at times. But you know, it’s coming from such a good place and he set the standard like no one else does.
“The fact that these guys could see how hard he worked when he’s coming back to Scarborough, even when he’s finished his career and was just playing state cricket, was I think probably instrumental to all three of those guys’ success, obviously the two in the World Cup now, but Harry [Harris] as well.”
Mitchell said it is odd to see his former teammates playing for Australia.
“Growing up playing club cricket with Marcus Stoinis and Marcus Harris and it’s quite bizarre now they’re playing for Australia (laughs),” Mitchell said. “But yeah to be able to grow up with those guys and practice with them definitely played a major role in my formative years as a cricketer.”
“It was really good,” Heron recalls. “Everyone really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. It was just about backing yourself. Looking around the group, do you have trust in each other? But it was mainly coming down to just full trust, full commitment, and just go out and give it a red-hot dip. There was nothing to lose. If you back yourself, everything will work out well.”
Stoinis and Mitchell are still following that advice.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo