Stoinis batting for ill father as he chases Test berth
MARCUS Stoinis will stride out to the middle of the WACA on Thursday knowing that big runs could secure him the lifelong dream of an Ashes Test debut.
But all he's really thinking about is getting back to the hospital after play.
For a decade now, Stoinis's father, Chris, has battled Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and over the past 18 months his condition has become extremely serious.
This enormous family struggle is why Stoinis has moved from Victoria back home to Western Australia this season, it's why he missed WA's one-day Cup final win last week, and it's why every time the all-rounder travels overseas for an international tour, there is the dread of the unknown at the back of his mind.
The fact Stoinis has managed to average nearly 90 with the bat from seven ODIs this year and is now in serious contention for the prized No. 6 Test spot is an extraordinary testament to one of the toughest and most resilient characters in Australian cricket.
Every sacrifice Stoinis has made since leaving home as a 20-year-old at his father's urging, has been in pursuit of that coveted baggy green, but the pressures that weigh on most cricketers in his position simply do not compare to a young man dealing with one of life's most personal struggles.
"In terms of the pressures of an upcoming Test series now, and selection, at the moment I don't think any further ahead than right now," Stoinis told The Daily Telegraph.
"Because I'll leave here and go straight to the hospital. That's just every day.
"It's clichéd, but I think when you're faced with tough conditions, you just get brought back down to earth and humbled and you can't be anywhere else except the present."
The guidance and support of mentor, coach and close friend Justin Langer, who only recently lost his mother to cancer, has meant the world.
Stoinis is encouraged by the fact his father has improved and come out "stronger" from a procedure he had done last Friday, but the nature of the cancer he is fighting is that every day is an unknown and the risk of infection or further growth of the lymphoma is ever present.
The impressive 28-year-old is part of a close-knit family, and his only sibling, Natasha, a doctor, has shouldered the added responsibility of being actively involved in their father's treatment.
Stoinis says it's his father's belief that has got him to the verge of the Test arena.
"To be honest, he believed in me more than I believed in myself when I was young," he said.
"I moved to Victoria for two years without a contract, just playing grade cricket. A lot of parents have massive influences on their kids and how they grow up and the opportunities they get, but he's been unbelievable for me."
After an outstanding domestic season in 2015-16, Stoinis struggled in Shield cricket for Victoria last season, and many around the game believe his first-class average of 35 has been heavily impacted by the tough circumstances he has faced.
But Stoinis says his recall for an Australian one-day tour of New Zealand in February after a solitary international appearance back in 2015 felt like a release from the shackles he was feeling.
"State cricket was quite hard. Being away from home but being so close to home as well," he said, thanking Victorian coach Andrew McDonald and general manager Shaun Graf for being so gracious in allowing him to return to Perth.
"But when I got picked for Australia, it was almost like in my head, I was allowed to be away to play for Australia because that was what I'd been dreaming about."
And it showed, as he blasted a career-defining 146 not out in Auckland, a knock as good as any by an Australian in recent memory, and one that lifted the side from disaster at 6-67 to within a whisker of a miraculous victory.
It's understood Steve Smith and others in the Australian set-up have admired Stoinis' calmness in pressure-cooker situations on the field - a rare trait that bodes well for him adapting his one-day skills to Test cricket.
"That's probably my biggest strength to be honest. There's technical stuff, there's physical stuff, but once you get to the middle, I think your ability to have a controlled mindset to access those things that you actually need is the biggest thing," he said.
"It's a strength and it's definitely been a learned thing. I've worked with my own sports psychologist for five or six years now and while that wasn't the specific target, with other processes we've put in place it's been a byproduct."