Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marsh-ing along

The Marsh family has good pedigree. Geoff Marsh, the former gritty and no frills Australian opening batsman, averaged 33 in Test cricket, and 40 in one-day cricket for his country, before becoming coach of both Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

Then there is Mellissa Marsh, who plays in the Women’s National Basketball League in Australia, for the West Coast Waves.

There’s youngest Mitchell, who captained Australia at Under 19 level to a successful World Cup Final, and as a batting all rounder, is tipped for big things over the next few years.

And finally, there is Shaun Marsh, a solid domestic player for Western Australia for a good 10 years. He became the 9th Australian to make a century on Test debut, making 141 in Sri Lanka. But 11 Test innings and only 1 score of over 50 later, Marsh’s place is under threat. Why?

Once described by his father as “having a few more shots than me”, Shaun Marsh is earmarked by Australian team hierarchy as a long term prospect. Despite only having 5 Sheffield Shield centuries behind him, Marsh was picked for the tour of Sri Lanka late last year. A superb 258 run partnership with fellow West Australian Mike Hussey, brought Marsh his first Test hundred. A stylish 88 followed in the 2nd Test. He hammered 160 runs in two knocks in a match against South Africa A, before the two test series against the Proteas. He looked untroubled in his 44 during the first Cape Town Test (3 less than the team could manage in the 2nd test), before an ongoing back problem flared up again, so bad he had to be carried to the toilet by Mike Hussey and the team physio the next day. Since then, he hasn’t looked the same player.

During his first three Tests in Sri Lanka and South Africa, Marsh appeared the most organised of Australia's batsmen, but convalescence due to a back problem and lack of first-class match preparation on recovery left him hesitant during four brief innings so far against India. In Sri Lanka, onlookers were impressed with his judgment of leaving the ball, in between crisp cover drives and smooth cut shots. It all looked right. But now, as Ed Cowan said about his own batting during one game, in his book In the Firing Line, “My feet were talking French, my hands Spanish, and my mind was at war with itself”. Marsh’s feet are now not covering the line as much, thus he is tentative in his knocks. Hard Hands were at fault when a loose drive went to point in Melbourne, survival (a trait his Father was known for) his undoing in the second innings, trying too hard to play defensively, and played onto his stumps. Perth came the biggest fault. I mentioned in Sri Lanka his leaving was superb. Marsh could have easily left a length ball for Umesh Yadav, but tamely poked, and perished to 2nd slip for 11. The Shaun Marsh of Sri Lanka wouldn’t have.

It seems Marsh has got the backing of Michael Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur, and he should count his lucky stars that Shane Watson isn’t fit, because Marsh would be the likely one to go if Watson was up and going, as I doubt the Warner-Cowan opening partnership would be broken. He has talent, but needs to utilize it more. For a man with so many back and hamstring injuries over his career, he is used to being knocked down. But this is a real test. But he just need to ask Dean Waugh- you need more than a respected surname to become a lasting success in the cricket arena.

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