Mitchell Marsh cashes in for club, then country
Mitchell Marsh was waiting to bat when a voice behind the players' viewing area piped up. "I was waiting to bat and some bloke yelled out in the crowd," Marsh said. "He just said 'well done, you've gone for $1 million [INR 4.8 crore] in the [IPL] auction', and I was just sort of 'yeah, whatever mate.'"
Events in India on Saturday afternoon were undoubtedly significant for Marsh and his bank balance, but in years to come he is more likely to remember what happened next. Marsh walked to the middle with Australia's chase and Chappell-Hadlee chances in serious jeopardy, but the iron-willed innings he conjured in the company of John Hastings allowed Steven Smith's team to ease to a series-leveling win.
Marsh is still a developing member of the Australia side, something that may be underlined by his possible omission from the squad for the World Twenty20 to take place in India before the IPL. Nevertheless, there were signs of a prospective leader in how he controlled things in Wellington, vitally setting down the ground rules for a match-clinching stand with Hastings.
"It was just a great partnership with Johnny Hastings," Marsh said. "We were in a bit of strife there, not sure how many we needed when he came out, 80 or so, and the way he batted and the way we batted together was extremely satisfying. We came here to get back into the series and we've done that now. So that'll give us great momentum going into Monday [series decider in Hamilton].
"We kept on saying we knew we were ahead of the run rate so we had plenty of time, and I just told Duke [Hastings] to give himself a bit of extra time to get in, watch the ball extremely hard and if it's in his area smack it, because that's when he bats his best. We kept it pretty simple and just tried to take it as deep into the innings as we could, because we knew we had plenty of time and overs left."
This summer Marsh has arguably evolved more as a bowler than a batsman, due at least in part to opportunity. A fully functioning top order left him short of meaningful innings during the home Tests, and it was not until he made a first international hundred in an ODI loss to India at the SCG that he was able to make a decent mark. This innings, guiding Australia home, was further progress and evidence of his increasing mental toughness.
"During the Test match series I didn't get a lot of opportunity because the top five were making a hell of a lot of runs and I just kept working hard," he said. "I wanted to take the opportunity when I got it. When you're under pressure for runs, certainly at this level, you think about a lot of things.
"When you haven't spent a lot of time in the middle things just don't come naturally and you don't think as clearly as you do when you're in form. That's been the biggest thing for me to work on, just worry about watching the ball and the rest will take care of itself. The last few weeks with my batting has given me great confidence to keep going now."
That toughness extended to blocking out the news of his IPL auction price until the match had been successfully finished off. For Marsh, at least, the prospect of winning a match for Australia still takes precedence over glad tidings from the game's financial crucible.
"I just tried to block it out because it was pretty amazing, and then Shaun [Marsh] came and sat next to me with a little grin and gave me a little nudge so then I found out," Marsh said. "Really happy I was able to block that out and focus on the game today, because playing for your country is the most important thing to me, so while that's great I'm really rapt we're back in the series now."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig