Stoinis relies on confidence, not form, for India tour
Mitchell Marsh, Callum Ferguson, Nic Maddinson, Hilton Cartwright, Mitchell Marsh ... Marcus Stoinis? The man who may become the latest in a string of Test No. 6s for Australia since the start of the summer has arrived in India, and is confident that he will be able to adapt quickly to the conditions if called on to make his debut in Ranchi this week.
Stoinis was flown to India to replace Marsh, who was sent home after Australia's loss in Bengaluru with a shoulder problem that had also caused him troubled during the home summer. Should Australia's selectors opt for an allrounder at No.6, the seam-bowling Stoinis and the offspinning Glenn Maxwell are the two likely candidates. Usman Khawaja as a specialist batsman is a third possibility.
The call-up of Stoinis raised a few eyebrows in Australian cricket, given his poor batting form this Sheffield Shield season, during which he has made 197 runs at 17.90 without a half-century. It is hardly the kind of form expected of a Test No.6, but national selector Trevor Hohns made it clear Stoinis had been picked due to his performances on a 2015 Australia A tour of India, as well as because he was the strongest bowling option among allrounders.
Perhaps the selectors also noted that when they last picked Stoinis, for the Chappell-Hadlee Series tour of New Zealand earlier this year, he was able to step up despite a lean patch that featured only one half-century from his past 29 innings across all formats. Stoinis flew to Auckland and smashed an unbeaten 146 in his first match of the series.
"New Zealand was a breakout for me," Stoinis told reporters in Ranchi on Tuesday. "Waiting 18 months for another international game after my first one was really pleasing personally. And then I still know [I've had] a good three or four years of Shield cricket where I've been in the top four or five run scorers. So the confidence is there and that's cricket, it can change so quickly."
It is true that despite Stoinis' lack of Shield runs this summer, he has been a consistent performer in the long format for Victoria in the past few years. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Stoinis has been second only to Peter Handscomb on Victoria's Shield run list - during a period in which the state has won two out of two Shield titles and has also reached the final of this year's tournament.
During that same period, Stoinis was part of the Australia A squad that played two first-class matches in Chennai in 2015, and he impressed the selectors in the first of those games with a first-innings 77. He also picked up three wickets at 31.00 during the series, including the wickets of current India Test players Cheteshwar Pujara and Karun Nair.
"Coming here for the Aussie A, it actually did suit my bowling," Stoinis said. "A couple staying low, a couple grabbing off the wicket, off-cutters. You've just got to hit the wicket hard here and see if anything happens off the wicket there."
It remains to be seen whether Stoinis will become Australia's 451st Test cricketer in Ranchi, or whether the selectors will lean towards either Maxwell or Khawaja. Either way, it will mean a fifth change of Australia's Test No.6 since the start of the home summer.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale