Australia allrounder Marcus Stoinis has played only six ODIs for Australia. However, in that short span, he has established a strange, little niche for himself.
In Auckland, with the team 67 for 6 in the 19th over, chasing 287, he struck an unbeaten 146 to bring a dying game to a dramatic climax. New Zealand, however, won it by six runs, with the non-striker Josh Hazlewood - who scored no runs in a 54-run tenth-wicket partnership with Stoinis - being run-out at the non-strikers' end for backing up too far.
Now, at another ground named Eden, he withstood India's wristspinners that have so often been Australia's downfall, scoring 62 off 65 balls in a manner that pleased his captain, on a night when it seemed like nothing could. Stoinis' composure and his all-round ability are firming his case to be part of the Ashes team.
But back to his lone hands. There are a couple of reasons why Stoinis has been able to play them. One: he's originally a top-order batsman. He slots in at No. 3 for Victoria and it was from that position that he scored a 170 against Tasmania in his first full season of Sheffield Shield cricket. Two: he tries to dumb everything down.
"I'm still quite new to those sorts of situations," Stoinis said of having to marshall the tail. "I'm used to batting higher in the order in state cricket. But really, the only plan is to try and win the game. That's the way I'm going about it. Not try to win the game from the start, but trying to be there at the end, trying to take the game as deep as possible and trying to communicate with my partners and keeping it as simple as that"
In New Zealand, armed with the knowledge of the short boundaries, he defended the good balls that came from Tim Southee and Trent Boult, regardless of how many they could manage. But the moment they strayed, Stoinis was launching them into the stands. He was 73 off 84, with Australia eight down and still needing 91 off 54. Nine sixes and three fours took him past a century and changed the equation to a mere seven off 19 balls. But, in the end, it was Kane Williamson, who pulled off the grandstand finish, as he had done in the 2015 World Cup.
That he has been able to do well in such extreme circumstances has helped Stoinis feel like he belongs at this level. "I'm enjoying the pressure. I'm enjoying the opportunities, and I'm seeing them more as opportunities. I'm obviously still young in my international career but I think that's probably where my head is at the moment. I guess the pressure can get to you. But at the moment, the way I'm going about it is I'm enjoying the chance to be put under pressure and I'm enjoying the chance to do something good for the team."
To ensure he has the best chance to do so, especially in subcontinent conditions, Stoinis said he might have to adopt a Test-match frame of mind when he is new to the crease. "Even in the first game, which actually got moved down to a T20 sort of thing for us, it was a bit unrealisitic for me to go in there and try and hit the first couple of balls for boundaries when you don't know what the conditions are doing. You can see it on TV, but it's always very different once you go out there. So I just want to get an understanding of the conditions - sometimes it takes five balls, sometimes it takes 20."
Australia looked rather upbeat in Bangalore, ahead of the fourth ODI, despite losing the one-day series to India only two nights ago. Just before training, they all got in a huddle and pulled out what looked like a giant die. They went around the group asking the players to throw it and when the number came up, there were loud whoops of laughter. Batsmen in the nets made it a point to clap when the spinners hit a length they struggled to hit, and fielders nailing a single stump from straight got a hero's welcome back to the queue before they went at it all over again.
Stoinis, before heading out to join in these exercises, said Australia were still looking at the remaining two games as a way to build morale before a huge season back home. "They're probably pretty important, like you said, to play the Ashes. But, at the moment, [we are] not really thinking about that. [We have] two games left in the series and we've got a big chance to start some momentum for the summer and we're all just focusing on that as a team."
After the tour of India, he is all set to go back home, to Western Australia, and resume his cricket. He had begun his career there, debuting at the age of 19, but couldn't find a permanent spot. Now, in his second coming, he is hoping things have changed.
"Justin [Langer, the coach] and myself have spoken about it a little bit. Maybe we should've spoken about it a little bit more. But it would sort itself out. I know Justin really well and I think it'll be a good move for me. Obviously the main reason I'm going is for family, but that will sort itself out and hopefully anywhere in the top."